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-. . 


In Memory of 
Dr. William H. Sheldon 

The Gift of 
His Associates 


AWElson & CoJBoston. 



( ,' 



Hotter^ ann 





Copyright, 1889, 










June, 1889. 


LOUISA MAY ALCOTT is universally recog- 
nized as the greatest and most popular 
story-teller for children in her generation. She 
has known the way to the hearts of young people, 
not only in her own class, or even country, but in 
every condition of life, and in many foreign lands. 
Plato says, " Beware of those who teach fables to 
children; " and it is impossible to estimate the in- 
fluence which the popular writer of fiction has 
over the audience he wins to listen to his tales. 
The preacher, the teacher, the didactic writer find 
their audience in hours of strength, with critical 
faculties all alive, to question their propositions and 
refute their arguments. The novelist comes to us 
in the intervals of recreation and relaxation, and by 
his seductive powers of imagination and sentiment 
takes possession of the fancy and the heart before 
judgment and reason are aroused to defend the 
citadel. It well becomes us, then, who would 

iv Introduction. 

guard young minds from subtle temptations, to 
study the character of those works which charm 
and delight the children. 

Of no author can it be more truly said than 
of Louisa Alcott that her works are a revelation 
of herself. She rarely sought for the material of 
her stories in old chronicles, or foreign adven- 
tures. Her capital was her own life and experi- 
ences and those of others directly about her ; and 
her own well-remembered girlish frolics and fan- 
cies were sure to find responsive enjoyment in the 
minds of other girls. 

It is therefore impossible to understand Miss 
Alcott's works fully without a knowledge of her 
own life and experiences. By inheritance and 
education she had rich and peculiar gifts ; and her 
life was one of rare advantages, as well as of trying 
difficulties. Herself of the most true and frank 
nature, she has given us the opportunity of know- 
ing her without disguise; and it is thus that I shall 
try to portray her, showing what influences acted 
upon her through life, and how faithfully and fully 
she performed whatever duties circumstances laid 
upon her. Fortunately I can let her speak mainly 
for herself. 

Miss Alcott revised her journals at different times 
during her later life, striking out what was too per- 
sonal for other eyes than her own, and destroying 
a great deal which would doubtless have proved 
very interesting. 

Introduction. v 

The small number of letters given will undoubt- 
edly be a disappointment. Miss Alcott wished to 
have most of her letters destroyed, and her sister 
respected her wishes. She was not a voluminous 
correspondent; she did not encourage many in- 
timacies, and she seldom wrote letters except to 
her family, unless in reference to some purpose 
she had strongly at heart. Writing was her con- 
stant occupation, and she was not tempted to in- 
dulge in it as a recreation. Her letters are brief, 
and strictly to the point, but always characteristic 
in feeling and expression ; and, even at the risk of 
the repetition of matter contained in her journals 
or her books, I shall give copious extracts from 
such as have come into my hands. 


E. D. C. 
JAMAICA PLAIN, Mass., 1889. 






II. CHILDHOOD . . . . . 16 













PORTRAIT OF Miss ALCOTT Frontispiece 

Photogravure by A. W. Elson & Co , from a photograph by 
Notman (negative destroyed), taken in 1883. The fac- 
simile of her writing is an extract from a letter to her 
publisher, written from her hospital retreat a few weeks 
previous to her death. 

1878 93 

Engraved by John Andrew & Son Co., from a photograph. 


Photogravure by A. W. Elson & Co., from a photograph 
taken just previous to her going to Washington as a hospi- 
tal nurse, in 1862. 


Extract from a letter to her publisher, January, 1886. 







WHEN I remember with what buoyant heart, 

Midst war's alarms and woes of civil strife, 
In youthful eagerness thou didst depart, 

At peril of thy safety, peace, and life, 
To nurse the wounded soldier, swathe the dead, 

How pierced soon by fever's poisoned dart, 
And brought unconscious home, with wildered head, 

Thou ever since 'mid langour and dull pain, 
To conquer fortune, cherish kindred dear, 

Hast with grave studies vexed a sprightly brain, 
In myriad households kindled love and cheer, 

Ne'er from thyself by Fame's loud trump beguiled, 
Sounding in this and the farther hemisphere, 

I press thee to my heart as Duty's faithful child. 

T OUISA ALCOTT was the second child of 
1 / Amos Bronson and Abba May Alcott. This 
name was spelled Alcocke in English history. 
About 1616 a coat-of-arms was granted to Thomas 
Alcocke of Silbertoft, in the county of Leicester. 
The device represents three cocks, emblematic of 
watchfulness ; and the motto is Semper Vigilans. 

12 Louisa May Alcott. 

The first of the name appearing in English his- 
tory is John Alcocke of Beverley, Yorkshire, of 
whom Fuller gives an account in his Worthies 
of England. 

Thomas and George Alcocke were the first of 
the name among the settlers in New England. 
The name is frequently found in the records of 
Dorchester and Roxbury, and has passed through 
successive changes to its present form. 

The name of Bronson came from Mr. Alcott's 
maternal grandfather, the sturdy Capt. Amos Bron- 
son of Plymouth, Conn. " His ancestors on both 
sides had been substantial people of respectable 
position in England, and were connected with the 
founders and governors of the chief New England 
colonies. At the time of Mr. Alcott's birth they 
had become simple farmers, reaping a scanty living 
from their small farms in Connecticut." 

Amos Bronson Alcott, the father of Louisa, was 
born Nov. 29, 1799, at the foot of Spindle Hill, in 
the region called New Connecticut. He has him- 
self given in simple verse the story of his quaint 
rustic life in his boyhood, and Louisa has repro- 
duced it in her story of " Eli's Education " (in the 
Spinning-Wheel Stories), which gives a very true 
account of his youthful life and adventures. He 
derived his refined, gentle nature from his mother, 
who had faith in her son, and who lived to see him 
the accomplished scholar he had vowed to become 
in his boyhood. Although brought up in these 
rustic surroundings, his manners were always those 
of a true gentleman. The name of the little moun- 
tain town afterward became Wolcott, and Louisa 

Genealogy and Parentage. 13 

records in her journal a pilgrimage made thither in 
after years. 1 

Louisa Alcott's mother was a daughter of Col. 
Joseph May of Boston. This Tamily is so well 
known that it is hardly necessary to repeat its 
genealogy here. 2 She was a sister of Samuel J. 
May, for many years pastor of the Unitarian church 
at Syracuse, who was so tenderly beloved by men 
of all religious persuasions in his home, and so 
widely known and respected for his courage and 
zeal in the Antislavery cause, as well as for his 
many philanthropic labors. 

Mrs. Alcott's mother was Dorothy Sewall, a de- 
scendant of that family already distinguished in the 
annals of the Massachusetts colony, and which has 
lost nothing of its reputation for ability and virtue 
in its latest representatives. 3 

Mrs. Alcott inherited in large measure the traits 
which distinguished her family. She was a woman 
of large stature, fine physique, and overflowing life. 
Her temper was as quick and warm as her affec- 
tions, but she was full of broad unselfish generosity. 
Her untiring energies were constantly employed, 
not only for the benefit of her family, but for all 

1 For further particulars of the Alcott genealogy, see "New 
Connecticut," a poem by A. B. Alcott, published in 1887. I am 
also indebted to Mr. F. B. Sanborn's valuable paper read at the 
memorial service at Concord in 1888. 

2 For particulars of the genealogy of the May families, see 
" A Genealogy of the Descendants of John May," who came from 
England to Roxbury in America, 1640. 

3 For the Sewall family, see " Drake's History of Boston," or 
fuller accounts in the Sewall Papers published by the Massachu- 
setts-Historical Society. 

14 Louisa May Alcott. 


around her. She had a fine mind, and if she did 
not have large opportunities for scholastic instruc- 
tion, she always enjoyed the benefit of intellectual 
society and converse with noble minds. She loved 
expression in writing, and her letters are full of wit 
and humor, keen criticism, and noble moral senti- 
ments. Marriage with an idealist, who had no 
means of support, brought her many trials and pri- 
vations. She bore them heroically, never wavering 
in affection for her husband or in devotion to her 
children. If the quick, impatient temper some- 
times relieved itself in hasty speech, the action was 
always large and unselfish. 

It will be apparent from Louisa's life that she 
inherited the traits of both her parents, and that 
the uncommon powers of mind and heart that dis- 
tinguished her were not accidental, but the accu- 
mulated result of the lives of generations of strong 
and noble men and women. 

She was well born. 

Mr. Alcott to Colonel May. 

GERMANTOWN, Nov. 29, 1832. 

DEAR SIR, - - It is with great pleasure that I announce 
to you the birth of a second daughter. She was born at 
half-past 12 this morning, on my birthday (33), and is 
a very fine healthful child, much more so than Anna was 
at birth, has a fine foundation for health and energy of 
character. Abba is very comfortable, and will soon be 
restored to the discharge of those domestic and maternal 
duties in which she takes so much delight, and in the 
performance of which she furnishes so excellent a model 

Genealogy and Parentage. 15 

for imitation. Those only who have seen her in those 
relations, much as there is in her general character to 
admire and esteem, can form a true estimate of her per- 
sonal worth and uncommon devotion of heart. She was 
formed for domestic sentiment rather than the gaze and 
heartlessness of what is falsely called " society." Abba 
inclines to call the babe Louisa May, a name to her 
full of every association connected with amiable benevo- 
lence and exalted worth. I hope its present possessor 
may rise to equal attainment, and deserve a place in the 
estimation of society. 

With Abba's and Anna's and Louisa's regards, allow 
me to assure you of the sincerity with which I am 



The children who lived to maturity were 





WELCOME, welcome, little stranger, 
Fear no harm, and fear no danger ; 
We are glad to see you here, 
For you sing " Sweet Spring is near." 

Now the white snow melts away ; 
Now the flowers blossom gay : 
Come dear bird and build your nest, 
For we love our robin best. 


MR. ALCOTT had removed to Germantown, 
Perm, to take charge of a school, and here 
Louisa was born, Nov. 29, 1832. She was the 
second daughter, and was welcomed with the same 
pride and affection as her elder sister had been. 
We have this pleasant little glimpse of her when 
she was hardly a month old, from the pen of one 
of her mother's friends. Even at that extremely 
early age love saw the signs of more than usual 
intelligence, and friends as well as fond parents 
looked forward to a promising career. 

1 Written at eight years of age. 

Childhood. \ 7 

Extract from a Letter by Miss Donaldson. 

GERMANTOWN, PENN., Dec. 16, 1832. 

I HAVE a dear little pet in Mrs. Alcott's little Louisa. 
It is the prettiest, best little thing in the world. You 
will wonder to hear me call anything so young pretty, 
but it is really so in an uncommon degree ; it has a fair 
complexion, dark bright eyes, long dark hair, a high fore- 
head, and altogether a countenance of more than usual 

The mother is such a delightful woman that it is a 
cordial to my heart whenever I go to see her. I went 
in to see her for a few moments the evening we received 
your letter, and I think I never saw better spirits ; 
and truly, if goodness and integrity can insure felicity, 
she deserves to be happy. 

The earliest anecdote remembered of Louisa is 
this : When the family went from Philadelphia to 
Boston by steamer, the two little girls were nicely 
dressed in clean nankeen frocks for the voyage ; 
but they had not been long on board before the 
lively Louisa was missing, and after a long search 
she was brought up from the engine-room, where 
her eager curiosity had carried her, and where she 
was having a beautiful time, with " plenty of dirt." 
The family removed to Boston in 1834, and 
Mr. Alcott opened his famous school in Masonic 
Temple. Louisa was too young to attend the 
school except as an occasional visitor; but she 
found plenty of interest and amusement for her- 
self in playing on the Common, making friends 
with every child she met, and on one occasion 


1 8 Louisa May Alcott. 

falling into the Frog Pond. She has given a very 
lively picture of this period of her life in " Poppy's 
Pranks," that vivacious young person being a pic- 
ture of herself, not at all exaggerated. 

The family lived successively in Front Street, 
Cottage Place, and Beach Street during the six 
succeeding years in Boston. They occasionally 
passed some weeks at Scituate during the summer, 
which the children heartily enjoyed. 

Mrs. Hawthorne gives a little anecdote which 
shows how the child's heart was blossoming in this 
family sunshine : " One morning in Front Street, 
at the breakfast table, Louisa suddenly broke 
silence, with a- sunny smile saying, ' I love every- 
body in dis whole world.' 

Two children were born during this residence in 
Boston. Elizabeth was named for Mr. Alcott's as- 
sistant in his school, Miss E. P. Peabody, since 
so widely known and beloved by all friends of edu- 
cation. A boy was born only to die. The little 
body was laid reverently away in the lot of Colonel 
May in the old burial-ground on the Common, and 
the children were taught to speak with tenderness 
of their " baby brother." 

When Louisa was about seven years old she 
made a visit to friends in Providence. Miss C. 
writes of her: " She is a beautiful little girl to look 
upon, and I love her affectionate manners. I think 
she is more like her mother than either of the 
others." As is usually the case, Louisa's journal, 
which she began at this early age, speaks more 
fully of her struggles and difficulties than of the 
bright, sunny moods which made her attractive. A 

Childhood. 19 

little letter carefully printed and sent home during 
this visit is preserved. In it she says she is not 
happy; and she did have one trying experience 
there, to which she refers in " My Boys." Seeing 
some poor children who she thought were hungry, 
she took food from the house without asking per- 
mission, and carried it to them, and was afterward 
very much astonished and grieved at being repri- 
manded instead of praised for the deed. Miss 
C. says : " She has had several spells of feeling 
sad ; but a walk or a talk soon dispels all gloom. 
She was half moody when she wrote her let- 
ter ; but now she is gay as a lark. She loves to 
play out of doors, and sometimes she is not in- 
clined to stay in when it is unpleasant." In her 
sketches of" My Boys" she describes two of her 
companions here, not forgetting the kindness of 
the one and the mischievousness of the other. 

Although the family were quite comfortable dur- 
ing the time of Mr. Alcott's teaching in Boston, yet 
the children wearied of their extremely simple diet 
of plain boiled rice without sugar, and graham 
meal without butter or molasses. An old friend 
who could not eat the bountiful rations provided 
for her at the United States Hotel, used to save 
her piece of pie or cake for the Alcott children. 
Louisa often took it home to the others in a band- 
box which she brought for the purpose. 

This friend was absent in Europe many years, 
and returned to find the name of Louisa Alcott 
famous. When she met the authoress on the street 
she was eagerly greeted. "Why, I did not think 
you would remember me ! ' said the old lady. 

2O Louisa May Alcott. 

" Do you think I shall ever forget that bandbox? ' 
was the instant reply. 

In 1840, Mr. Alcott's school having proved un- 
successful, the family removed to Concord, Mass., 
and took a cottage which is described in " Little 
Women " as " Meg's first home," although Anna 
never lived there after her marriage. It was a 
pleasant house, with a garden full of trees, and 
best of all a large barn, in which the children 
could have free range and act out all the plays 
with which their little heads were teeming. Of 
course it was a delightful change from the city for 
the children, and here they passed two very happy 
years, for they were too young to understand the 
cares which pressed upon the hearts of their pa- 
rents. Life was full of interest. One cold morn- 
ing they found in the garden a little half-starved 
bird ; and having warmed and fed it, Louisa was 
inspired to write a pretty poem to "The Robin." 
The fond mother was so delighted that she said to 
her, " You will grow up a Shakspeare ! ' From the 
lessons of her father she had formed the habit of 
writing freely, but this is the first recorded instance 
of her attempting to express her feelings in verse. 

From the influences of such parentage as I have 
described, the family life in which Louisa was 
brought up became wholly unique. 

If the father had to give up his cherished projects 
of a school modelled after his ideas, he could at 
least conduct the education of his own children ; 
and he did so with the most tender devotion. Even 
when they were infants he took a great deal of per- 
sonal care of them, and loved to put the little ones 



to bed and use the " children's hour" to instil into 
their hearts lessons of love and wisdom. He was 
full of fun too, and would lie on the floor and frolic 
with them, making compasses of his long legs with 
which to draw letters and diagrams. No shade of 
fear mingled with the children's reverent recogni- 
tion of his superior spiritual life. So their hearts 
lay open to him, and he was able to help them in 
their troubles. 

He taught them much by writing ; and we have 
many specimens of their lists of words to be spelled, 
written, and understood. The lessons at Scituate 
were often in the garden, and their father always 
drew their attention to Nature and her beautiful 
forms and meanings. Little symbolical pictures 
helped to illustrate his lessons, and he sometimes 
made drawings himself. Here is an example of 
lessons. A quaint little picture represents one 
child playing on a harp, another drawing an arrow. 
It is inscribed 



Two passions strong divide our life, 
Meek, gentle love, or boisterous strife. 

Below the child playing the harp is 

Love, Music, 

Below the shooter is 

Anger, Arrow, 

22 Louisa May Alcott. 

Another leaflet is 


Louisa loves 

What ? 
Softly.) Fun 

Have some then, 


Christmas Eve, December, 1840. 


Beauty or Duty, 

loves Anna best? 



from her 


Christmas Eve, 

December, 1840. 


A letter beautifully printed by her father for 
Louisa (1839) speaks to her of conscience, and she 
adds to it this note : " L. began early, it seems, to 
wrestle with her conscience." The children were 

Childhood. 23 

always required to keep their journals regularly, 
and although these were open to the inspection of 
father and mother, they were very frank, and really 
recorded their struggles and desires. The mother 
had the habit of writing little notes to the children 
when she wished to call their attention to any fault 
or peculiarity. Louisa preserved many of them, 

\_Extracts from letters from Mother, received during these 
early years. I preserve them to show the ever tender, watch- 
ful help she gave to the child who caused her the most anx- 
iety, yet seemed to be the nearest to her heart till the end. 
L. M. A.] 

No. i.- -Mv DEAR LITTLE GIRL,- -Will you accept 
this doll from me on your seventh birthday? She will be 
a quiet playmate for my active Louisa for seven years 
more. Be a kind mamma, and love her for my sake. 



From her Mother. 



DEAR DAUGHTER, - - Your tenth birthday has arrived. 
May it be a happy one, and on each returning birthday 
may you feel new strength and resolution to be gentle 
with sisters, obedient to parents, loving to every one, and 
happy in yourself. 

I give you the pencil-case I promised, for I have ob- 
served that you are fond of writing, and wish to encour- 
age the habit. 

Go on trying, dear, and each day it will be easier to be 
and do good. You must help yourself, for the cause of 
your little troubles is in yourself; and patience and cour- 

24 Louisa May Alcott. 

age only will make you what mother prays to see you, 
her good and happy girl. 

CONCORD, 1843. 

DEAR LOUY, I enclose a picture for you which I 
always liked very much, for I imagined that you might be 
just such an industrious daughter and I such a feeble but 
loving mother, looking to your labor for my daily bread. 

Keep it for my sake and your own, for you and I 

always liked to be grouped together. 


The lines I wrote under the picture in my journal : 


I hope that soon, dear mother, 

You and I may be 
In the quiet room my fancy 

Has so often made for thee, 

The pleasant, sunny chamber, 

The cushioned easy-chair, 
The book laid for your reading, 

The vase of flowers fair ; 

The desk beside the window 

Where the sun shines warm and bright : 

And there in ease and quiet 
The promised book you write ; 

While I sit close beside you, 

Content at last to see 
That you can rest, dear mother, 

And I can cherish thee. 

[The dream came true, and for the last ten years of her 
life Marmee sat in peace, with every wish granted, even to 
the "grouping together;" for she died in my arms. 

L. M. A.] 

Childhood. 25 

A passage in Louisa's story of " Little Men " 
(p. 268) describes one of their childish plays. 
They " made believe J their minds were little 
round rooms in which the soul lived, and in which 
good or bad things were preserved. This play 
was never forgotten in after life, and the girls 
often looked into their little rooms for comfort or 
guidance in trial or temptation. 

Louisa was very fond of animals, as is abundantly 
shown in her stories. She never had the happiness 
of owning many pets, except cats, and these were 
the delight of the household. The children played 
all manner of plays with them, tended them in sick- 
ness, buried them with funeral honors, and Louisa 
has embalmed their memory in the story of " The 
Seven Black Cats " in " Aunt Jo's Scrap-Bag." 

Dolls were an equal source of pleasure. The 
imaginative children hardly recognized them as 
manufactured articles, but endowed them with life 
and feeling. Louisa put her dolls through every 
experience of life ; they were fed, educated, pun- 
ished, rewarded, nursed, and even hung and buried, 
and then resurrected in her stories. The account 
of the " Sacrifice of the Dolls ' to the exacting 
Kitty Mouse in " Little Men " delights all chil- 
dren by its mixture of pathetic earnestness and 
playfulness. It is taken from the experience of 
another family of children. 

Miss Alcott twice says that she never went to 
any school but her father's ; but there were some 
slight exceptions to this rule. She went a few 
months to a little district school in Still River 
Village. This was a genuine old-fashioned school, 

26 Louisa May Alcott. 

from which she took the hint of the frolics in 
" Under the Lilacs." Miss Ford also kept a little 
school in Mr. Emerson's barn, to which the chil- 
dren went; and Mary Russell had a school, which 
Louisa attended when eight or nine years old. 
These circumstances, however, had small influence 
in her education. 

During this period of life in Concord, which was 
so happy to the children, the mother's heart was 
full of anxious care. She however entered into 
all their childish pleasures, and her watchful care 
over their moral growth is shown by her letters 
and by Louisa's journals. 

The youngest child, Abba May, who was born 
in the cottage, became the pet of the family and 
the special care of the oldest sister, Anna. 

Louisa's childish journal gives us many hints 
of this happy life. She revised these journals in 
later years, adding significant comments which 
are full of interest. She designed them to have 
place in her autobiography, which she hoped to 

From three different sources her journals, an 
article written for publication, and a manuscript 
prepared for a friend, we give her own account 
of these childish years. She has not followed the 
order of events strictly, and it has not been pos- 
sible, therefore, to avoid all repetition ; but they 
give the spirit of her early life, and clearly show 
the kind of education she received from her father 
and from the circumstances around her. 

Childhood. 27 

Sketch of Childhood, by Jicrs&lf. 

ONE of my earliest recollections is of playing with 
books in my father's study, building houses and bridges 
of the big dictionaries and diaries, looking at pictures, 
pretending to read, and scribbling on blank pages when- 
ever pen or pencil could be found. Many of these first 
attempts at authorship still remain in Bacon's Essays, 
Plutarch's Lives, and other works of a serious nature, my 
infant taste being for solid literature, apparently. 

On one occasion we built a high tower round baby 
Lizzie as she sat playing with her toys on the floor, and 
being attracted by something out-of-doors, forgot our 
little prisoner. A search was made, and patient baby at 
last discovered curled up and fast asleep in her dungeon 
cell, out of which she emerged so rosy and smiling after 
her nap that we were forgiven for our carelessness. 

Another memory is of my fourth birthday, which was 
celebrated at my father's school-room in Masonic Tem- 
ple. All the children were there. I wore a crown of 
flowers, and stood upon a table to dispense cakes to each 
child as the procession marched past. By some over- 
sight the cakes fell short, and I saw that if I gave away 
the last one / should have none. As I was queen of the 
revel, I felt that I ought to have it, and held on to it 
tightly till my mother said, 

" It is always better to give away than to keep the 
nice things ; so I know my Louy will not let the little 
friend go without." 

The little friend received the dear plummy cake, and 
I a kiss and my first lesson in the sweetness of self-denial, 
a lesson which my dear mother beautifully illustrated 
all her long and noble life. 

Running away was one of the delights of my early 

28 Louisa May Alcott. 

days ; and I still enjoy sudden flights out of the nest to 
look about this very interesting world, and then go back 
to report. 

On one of these occasions I passed a varied day with 
some Irish children, who hospitably shared their cold 
potatoes, salt-fish, and crusts with me as we revelled in 
the ash-heaps which then adorned the waste lands where 
the Albany Depot now stands. A trip to the Common 
cheered the afternoon, but as dusk set in and my friends 
deserted me, I felt that home was a nice place after all, 
and tried to find it. I dimly remember watching a lamp- 
lighter as I sat to rest on some doorsteps in Bedford 
Street, where a big dog welcomed me so kindly that I 
fell asleep with my head pillowed on his curly back, and 
was found there by the town-crier, whom my distracted 
parents had sent in search of me. His bell and procla- 
mation of the loss of " a little girl, six years old, in a 
pink frock, white hat, and new green shoes," woke me 
up, and a small voice answered out of the darkness, - 

" Why, dat's me ! " 

Being with difficulty torn from my four-footed friend, 
I was carried to the crier's house, and there feasted 
sumptuously on bread-and-molasses in a tin plate with 
the alphabet round it. But my fun ended next day 
when I was tied to the arm of the sofa to repent at 

I became an Abolitionist at a very early age, but have 
never been able to decide whether I was made so by 
seeing the portrait of George Thompson hidden under a 
bed in our house during the Garrison riot, and going to 
comfort " the poor man who had been good to the 
slaves," or because I was saved from drowning in the 
Frog Pond some years later by a colored boy. How- 
ever that may be, the conversion was genuine ; and my 

Childhood. 29 

greatest pride is in the fact that I lived to know the 
brave men and women who did so much for the cause, 
and that I had a very small share in the war which put 
an end to a great wrong. 

Another recollection of her childhood was of 
a "contraband' hidden in the oven, which must 
have made her sense of the horrors of slavery 
very keen. 

I never went to school except to my father or such 
governesses as from time to time came into the family. 
Schools then were not what they are now ; so we had 
lessons each morning in the study. And very happy hours 
they were to us, for my father taught in the wise way 
which unfolds what lies in the child's nature, as a flower 
blooms, rather than crammed it, like a Strasburg goose, 
with more than it could digest. I never liked arithmetic 
nor grammar, and dodged those branches on all occa- 
sions ; but reading, writing, composition, history, and 
geography I enjoyed, as well as the stories read to us 
with a skill peculiarly his own. 

" Pilgrim's Progress," Krummacher's " Parables," Miss 
Edge worth, and the best of the dear old fairy tales made 
the reading hour the pleasantest of our day. On Sun- 
days we had a simple service of Bible stories, hymns, and 
conversation about the state of our little consciences 
and the conduct of our childish lives which never will 
be forgotten. 

Walks each morning round the Common while in the 
city, and long tramps over hill and dale when our home 
was in the country, were a part of our education, as well 
as every sort of housework, for which I have always been 
very grateful, since such knowledge makes one indepen- 

3O Louisa May Alcott, 

dent in these days of domestic tribulation with the " help " 
who are too often only hindrances. 

Needle-work began early, and at ten my skilful sister 
made a linen shirt beautifully ; while at twelve I set up 
as a doll's dressmaker, with my sign out and wonderful 
models in my .window. All the children employed me, 
and my turbans were the rage at one time, to the great 
dismay of the neighbors' hens, who were hotly hunted 
down, that I might tweak out their downiest feathers to 
adorn the dolls' headgear. 

Active exercise was my delight, from the time when a 
child of six I drove my hoop round the Common with- 
out stopping, to the days when I did my twenty miles in 
five hours and went to a party in the evening. 

I always thought I must have been a deer or a horse 
in some former state, because it was such a joy to run. 
No boy could be my friend till I had beaten him in a 
race, and no girl if she refused to climb trees, leap fences, 
and be a tomboy. 

My wise mother, anxious to give me a strong body to 
support a lively brain, turned me loose in the country 
and let me run wild, learning of Nature what no books 
can teach, and being led, - - as those who truly love her 
seldom fail to be, - 

" Through Nature up to Nature's God." 

I remember running over the hills just at dawn one 
summer morning, and pausing to rest in the silent woods, 
saw, through an arch of trees, the sun rise over river, hill, 
and wide green meadows as I never saw it before. 

Something born of the lovely hour, a happy mood, and 
the unfolding aspirations of a child's soul seemed to bring 
me very near to God ; and in the hush of that morning 
hour I always felt that I " got religion," as the phrase 

Childhood, 3 1 

goes. A new and vital sense of His presence, tender and 
sustaining as a father's arms, came to me then, never to 
change through forty years of life's vicissitudes, but to 
grow stronger for the sharp discipline of poverty and 
pain,' sorrow and success. 

Those Concord days were the happiest of my life, for 
we had charming playmates in the little Emersons, Chan- 
nings, Hawthornes, and Goodwins, with the illustrious 
parents and their friends to enjoy our pranks and share 
our excursions. 

Plays in the bam were a favorite amusement, and we 
dramatized the fairy tales in great style. Our giant came 
tumbling off a loft when Jack cut down the squash-vine 
running up a ladder to represent the immortal bean. 
Cinderella rolled away in a vast pumpkin, and a long 
black pudding was lowered by invisible hands to fasten 
itself on the nose of the woman who wasted her three 

Pilgrims journeyed over the hill with scrip and staff 
and cockle-shells in their hats ; fairies held their pretty 
revels among the whispering birches, and strawberry par- 
ties in the rustic arbor were honored by poets and phi- 
losophers, who fed us on their wit and wisdom while the 
little maids served more mortal food. 




A LITTLE kingdom I possess, 

Where thoughts and feelings dwell, 
And very hard I find the task 

Of governing it well ; 
For passion tempts and troubles me, 

A wayward will misleads, 
And selfishness its shadow casts 

On all my words and deeds. 

How can I learn to rule myself, 

To be the child I should, 
Honest and brave, nor ever tire 

Of trying to be good ? 
How can I keep a sunny soul 

To shine along life's way ? 
How can I tune my little heart 

To sweetly sing all day ? 

Dear Father, help me with the love 

That casteth out my fear ; 
Teach me to lean on thee, and feel 

That thou art very near, 
That no temptation is unseen, 

No childish grief too small, 
Since thou, with patience infinite, 

Doth soothe and comfort all. 

I do not ask for any crown 

But that which all may win, 
Nor seek to conquer any world 

Except the one within. 
Be thou my guide until I find, 

Led by a tender hand, 
Thy happy kingdom in myself, 

And dare to take command. 

Fruitlands. 33 

IN 1842 Mr. Alcott went to England. His mind 
was very much exercised at this time with 
plans for organized social life on a higher plane, 
and he found like-minded friends in England who 
gave him sympathy and encouragement. He had 
for some years advocated a strictly vegetarian diet, 
to which his family consented from deference to 
him ; consequently the children never tasted meat 
till they came to maturity. On his return from 
England he was accompanied by friends who were 
ready to unite with him in the practical realization 
of their social theories. Mr. Lane resided for some 
months in the Alcott family at Concord, and gave 
instruction to the children. Although he does not 
appear to have won their hearts, they yet reaped 
much intellectual advantage from his lessons, as he 
was an accomplished scholar. 

In 1843 this company of enthusiasts secured a 
farm in the town of Harvard, near Concord, which 
with trusting hope they named Fruitlands. Mrs. 
Alcott did not share in all the peculiar ideas of her 
husband and his friends, but she was so utterly de- 
voted to him that she was ready to help him in 
carrying out his plans, however little they com- 
mended themselves to her better judgment. 

She alludes very briefly to the experiment in her 
diary, for the experience was too bitter to dwell 
upon. She could not relieve her feelings by 
bringing out the comic side, as her daughter did. 
Louisa's account of this colony, as given in her 
story called " Transcendental Wild Oats," is very 
close to the facts ; and the mingling of pathos and 
humor, the reverence and ridicule with which she 


34 Louisa May Alcott. 

alternately treats the personages and the notions of 
those engaged in the scheme, make a rich and de- 
lightful tale. It was written many years later, and 
gives the picture as she looked back upon it, the 
absurdities coming out in strong relief, while she 
sees also the grand, misty outlines of the high 
thoughts so poorly realized. This story was pub- 
lished in the " Independent," Dec. 8, 1873, and 
may now be found in her collected works (" Silver 
Pitchers," p. 79). 

Fortunately we have also her journal written at 
the time, which shows what education the experi- 
ence of this strange life brought to the child of ten 
or eleven years old. 

The following extract from Mr. Emerson proves 
that this plan of life looked fair and pleasing to his 
eye, although he was never tempted to join in it. 
He was evidently not unconscious of the inade- 
quacy of the means adopted to the end proposed, 
but he rejoiced in any endeavor after high ideal 

JULY, 8, 1843. 

Journal. The sun and the evening sky do not look 
calmer than Alcott and his family at Fruitlands. They 
seemed to have arrived at the fact, to have got rid of 
the show, and so to be serene. Their manners and 
behavior in the house and in the field were those of 
superior men, of men at rest. What had they to con- 
ceal? What had they to exhibit? And it seemed so 
high an attainment that I thought as often before, so 
now more, because they had a fit home, or the picture 
was fitly framed that these men ought to be main- 
tained in their place by the country for its culture. 

Fruitlands. 35 

Young men and young maidens, old men and women, 
should visit them and be inspired. I think there is as 
much merit in beautiful manners as in hard work. I will 
not prejudge them successful. They look well in July ; 
we will see them in December. I know they are better 
for themselves than as partners. One can easily see that 
they have yet to settle several things. Their saying that 
things are clear, and they sane, does not make them so. 
If they will in very deed be lovers, and not selfish ; if 
they will serve the town of Harvard, and make their 
neighbors feel them as benefactors wherever they touch 
them, they are as safe as the sun. 1 

Early Diary kept at Frnitlands, 1843. 

Ten Years Old. 

September \st. I rose at five and had my bath. I 
love cold water ! Then we had our singing-lesson with 
Mr. Lane. After breakfast I washed dishes, and ran on 
the hill till nine, and had some thoughts, it was so beau- 
tiful up there. Did my lessons, wrote and spelt and 
did sums ; and Mr. Lane read a story, " The Judicious 
Father " : How a rich girl told a poor girl not to look 
over the fence at the flowers, and was cross to her 
because she was unhappy. The father heard her do 
it, and made the girls change clothes. The poor one 
was glad to do it, and he told her to keep them. But 
the rich one was very sad ; for she had to wear the 
old ones a week, and after that she was good to shabby 
girls. I liked it very much, and I shall be kind to poor 

Father asked us what was God's noblest work. Anna 
said men, but I said babies. Men are often bad ; babies 

1 Emerson in Concord. By Edward Waldo Emerson. 

36 Louisa May Alcott. 

never are. We had a long talk, and I felt better after it, 
and cleared ^tp. 

We had bread and fruit for dinner. I read and walked 
and played till supper-time. We sung in the evening. 
As I went to bed the moon came up very brightly and 
looked at me. I felt sad because I have been cross to- 
day, and did not mind Mother. I cried, and then I felt 
better, and said that piece from Mrs. Sigourney, " I must 
not tease my mother." I get to sleep saying poetry, I 
know a great deal. 

Thursday, \^th. Mr. Parker Pillsbury came, and we 
talked about the poor slaves. I had a music lesson with 
Miss F. I hate her, she is so fussy. I ran in the wind 
and played be a horse, and had a lovely time in the woods 
with Anna and Lizzie. We were fairies, and made gowns 
and paper wings. I " flied " the highest of all. In the 
evening they talked about travelling. I thought about 
Father going to England, and said this piece of poetry I 
found in Byron's poems : 

" When I left thy shores, O Naxos, 

Not a tear in sorrow fell ; 
Not a sigh or faltered accent 
Told my bosom's struggling swell." 

It rained when I went to bed, and made a pretty 
noise on the roof. 

Sunday, 24^. Father and Mr. Lane have gone to 
N. H. to preach. It was very lovely. . . . Anna and I 
got supper. In the eve I read " Vicar of Wakefield." 
I was cross to-day, and I cried when I went to bed. I 
made good resolutions, and felt better in my heart. If 
I only kept all I make, I should be the best girl in the 
world. But I don't, and so am very bad. 

[Poor little sinner! She says the same at fifty. - 
L. M. A.] 

Fruitlands. 37 

October 8//z. When I woke up, the first thought I 
got was, " It 's Mother's birthday : I must be very good." 
I ran and wished her a happy birthday, and gave her my 
kiss. After breakfast we gave her our presents. I had 
a moss cross and a piece of poetry for her. 

We did not have any school, and played in the woods 
and got red leaves. In the evening we danced and sung, 
and I read a story about " Contentment." I wish I was 
rich, I was good, and we were all a happy family this 

Thursday, i2th. After lessons I ironed. We all went 
to the barn and husked corn. It was good fun. We 
worked till eight o'clock and had lamps. Mr. Russell 
came. Mother and Lizzie are going to Boston. I shall 
be very lonely without dear little Betty, and no one will 
be as good to me as mother. I read in Plutarch. I 
made a verse about sunset : 

Softly doth the sun descend 

To his couch behind the hill, 
Then, oh, then, I love to sit 

On mossy banks beside the rill. 

Anna thought it was very fine ; but I did n't like it very 

Friday, Nov. 2nd. Anna and I did the work. In 
the evening Mr. Lane asked us, "What is man?' 
These were our answers : A human being ; an animal 
with a mind ; a creature ; a body ; a soul and a 
mind. After a long talk we went to bed very tired. 

[No wonder, after doing the work and worrying their 
little wits with such lessons. L. M. A.] 

A sample of the vegetarian wafers we used at Fruit- 
lands : 

38 Louisa May Alcott. 

Vegetable diet Pluck your body Without flesh diet 

and sweet repose. from the orchard ; there could be no 

Animal food and do not snatch it blood-shedding war. 

nightmare. from the shamble. 

Apollo eats no Snuff is no less snuff 

flesh and has no though accepted from 

beard ; his voice is a gold box. 
melody itself. 

Tuesday, 2Oth. I rose at five, and after breakfast 
washed the dishes, and then helped mother work. Miss 
F. is gone, and Anna in Boston with Cousin Louisa. I 
took care of Abby (May) in the afternoon. In the 
evening I made some pretty things for my dolly. Father 
and Mr. L. had a talk, and father asked us if we saw any 
reason for us to separate. Mother wanted to, she is so 
tired. I like it, but not the school part or Mr. L. 

Eleven years old. Thursday, 29 th. It was Father's 
and my birthday. We had some nice presents. We 
played in the snow before school. Mother read " Rosa- 
mond " when we sewed. Father asked us in the eve 
what fault troubled us most. I said my bad temper. 

I told mother I liked to have her write in my book. 
She said she would put in more, and she wrote this to 
help me : 

DEAR LOUY, Your handwriting improves very fast. 
Take pains and do not be in a hurry. I like to have you 
make observations about our conversations and your own 
thoughts. It helps you to express them and to under- 
stand your little self. Remember, dear girl, that a diary 
should be an epitome of your life. May it be a record 
of pure thought and good actions, then you will indeed 
be the precious child of your loving mother. 

December lotfi. I did my lessons, and walked in the 
afternoon. Father read to us in dear Pilgrim's Progress. 

Fruitlands. 39 

Mr. L. was in Boston, and we were glad. In the eve 
father and mother and Anna and I had a long talk. I 
was very unhappy, and we all cried. Anna and I cried 
in bed, and I prayed God to keep us all together. 

[Little Lu began early to feel the family cares and pe- 
culiar trials. L. M. A.] 

I liked the verses Christian sung and will put them 
in : 

" This place has been our second stage, 

Here we have heard and seen 
Those good things that from age to age 
To others hid have been. 

" They move me for to watch and pray, 

To strive to be sincere, 
To take my cross up day by day, 
And serve the Lord with fear." 

[The appropriateness of the song at this time was much 
greater than the child saw. She never forgot this experi- 
ence, and her little cross began to grow heavier from this 
hour. L. M. A.] 

CONCORD, Sunday. We all went into the woods to 
get moss for the arbor Father is making for Mr. Emerson. 
I miss Anna so much. I made two verses for her : 


Sister, dear, when you are lonely, 

Longing for your distant home, 
And the images of loved ones 

Warmly to your heart shall come, 
Then, mid tender thoughts and fancies, 

Let one fond voice say to thee, 
" Ever when your heart is heavy, 

Anna, dear, then think of me." 

40 Louisa May Alcott. 

Think how we two have together 

Journeyed onward day by day, 
Joys and sorrows ever sharing, 

While the swift years roll away. 
Then may all the sunny hours 

Of our youth rise up to thee, 
And when your heart is light and happy, 

Anna, dear, then think of me. 

[Poetry began to flow about this time in a thin but co- 
pious stream. L. M. A.J 

Wednesday. Read Martin Luther. A long letter 
from Anna. She sends me a picture of Jenny Lind, the 
great singer. She must be a happy girl. I should like 
to be famous as she is. Anna is very happy ; and I 
don't miss her as much as I shall by and by in the 

I wrote in my Imagination Book, and enjoyed it very 
much. Life is pleasanter than it used to be, and I don't 
care about dying any more. Had a splendid run, and 
got a box of cones to burn. Sat and heard the pines 
sing a long time. Read Miss Bremer's " Home ' in the 
eve. Had good dreams, and woke now and then to 
think, and watch the moon. I had a pleasant time with 
my mind, for it was happy. 

[Moods began early. --L. M. A.] 

January, 1845, Friday. Did my lessons, and in the 
p. M. mother read " Kenilworth ' : to us while we sewed. 
It is splendid ! I got angry and called Anna mean. 
Father told me to look out the word in the Die., and it 
meant " base," " contemptible." I was so ashamed to 
have called my dear sister that, and I cried over my bad 
tongue and temper. 

We have had a lovely day. All the trees were covered 

Fruitlands. 41 

with ice, and it shone like diamonds or fairy palaces. I 
made a piece of poetry about winter : 

The stormy winter 's come at last, 
With snow and rain and bitter blast ; 

Ponds and brooks are frozen o'er, 
We cannot sail there any more. 

The little birds are flown away 

To warmer climes than ours ; 
They 11 come no more till gentle May 

Calls them back with flowers. 

Oh, then the darling birds will sing 
From their neat nests in the trees. 

All creatures wake to welcome Spring, 
And flowers dance in the breeze. 

With patience wait till winter is o'er, 

And all lovely things return ; 
Of every season try the more 

Some knowledge or virtue to learn. 

[A moral is tacked on even to the early poems. 
L. M. A.] 

I read " Philothea," * by Mrs. Child. I found this that 
I liked in it. Plato said : 

" When I hear a note of music I can at once strike its 
chord. Even as surely is there everlasting harmony be- 
tween the soul of man and the invisible forms of creation. 
If there were no innocent hearts there would be no white 
lilies. ... I often think flowers are the angel's alphabet 

1 " Philothea " was the delight of girls. The young Alcotts 
made a dramatic version of it, which they acted under the trees. 
Louisa made a magnificent Aspasia, which was a part much to her 
fancy. Mrs. Child was a very dear friend of Mrs. Alcott, and her 
daughters knew her well. 

42 Louisa May Alcott. 

whereby they write on hills and fields mysterious and 
beautiful lessons for us to feel and learn." 

[Well done, twelve-year-old! Plato, the father's delight, 
had a charm for the little girl also. --L. M. A.] 

Wednesday. I am so cross I wish I had never been 

Thursday. Read the " Heart of Mid-Lothian," and 
had a very happy day. Miss Ford gave us a botany 
lesson in the woods. I am always good there. In the 
evening Miss Ford told us about the bones in our bodies, 
and how they get out of order. I must be careful of 
mine, I climb and jump and run so much. 

I found this note from dear mother in my journal : 

MY DEAREST LOUY, I often peep into your diary, 
hoping to see some record of more happy days. " Hope, 
and keep busy," dear daughter, and in all perplexity or 
trouble come freely to your 


DEAR MOTHER, You shall see more happy days, and 
I will come to you with my worries, for you are the best 
woman in the world. L. M. A. 

A Sample of our Lessons. 

" What virtues do you wish more of ? " asks Mr. L. 
I answer : 

Patience, Love, Silence, 

Obedience, Generosity, Perseverance, 

Industry, Respect, Self-denial. 

" What vices less of ? " 

Idleness, Wilfulness, Vanity, 

Impatience, Impudence, Pride, 

Selfishness, Activity. Love of cats. 

Fruitlands. 43 

MR. L. L. 


Ho\v can you get what you need ? By trying. 
How do you try ? By resolution and perseverance. 
How gain love ? By gentleness. 

What is gentleness ? Kindness, patience, and care for 
other people's feelings. 

Who has it? Father and Anna. 

Who means to have it ? Louisa, if she can. 

[She never got it. L. M. A.] 

Write a sentence about anything. " I hope it will rain ; 
the garden needs it." 

What are the elements of hope? Expectation, desire, 

What are the elements in wish ? Desire. 

What is the difference between faith and hope ? " Faith 
can believe without seeing; hope is not sure, but tries to 
have faith when it desires." 

No. 3- 

What are the most valuable kinds of self-denial? Appe- 
tite, temper. 

How is self-denial of temper known ? If I control my 
temper, I am respectful and gentle, and every one sees it. 

What is the result of this self-denial? Everyone loves 
me, and I am happy. 

Why use self-denial ? For the good of myself and others. 

How shall we learn this self-denial ? By resolving, and 
then trying hard. 

What then do you mean to do ? To resolve and try. 

[Here the record of these lessons ends, and poor little 
Alcibiades went to work and tried till fifty, but without any 
very great success, in spite of all the help Socrates and Plato 
gave her. L. M. A.] 

Tuesday. More people coming to live with us ; I 
wish we could be together, and no one else. I don't 

44 Louisa May Alcott. 

see who is to clothe and feed us all, when we are so 
poor now. I was very dismal, and then went to walk 
and made a poem. 


Silent and sad, 

When all are glad, 
And the earth is dressed in flowers ; 

When the gay birds sing 

Till the forests ring, 
As they rest in woodland bowers. 

Oh, why these tears, 

And these idle fears 
For what may come to-morrow ? 

The birds find food 

From God so good, 
And the flowers know no sorrow. 

If He clothes these 

And the leafy trees, 
Will He not cherish thee ? 

Why doubt His care ; 

It is everywhere, 
Though the way we may not see. 

Then why be sad 

When all are glad, 
And the world is full of flowers ? 

With the gay birds sing, 

Make life all Spring, 
And smile through the darkest hours. 

Louisa Alcott grew up so naturally in a healthy 
religious atmosphere that she breathed and worked 
in it without analysis or question. She had not 

Fmitlands. 45 

suffered from ecclesiastical tyranny or sectarian 
bigotry, and needed not to expend any time or 
strength in combating them. She does not appear 
do have suffered from doubt or questioning, but to 
have gone on her way fighting all the real evils 
that w r ere presented to her, trusting in a sure power 
of right, and confident of victory. 

CONCORD, Thursday. I had an early run in the 
woods before the dew was off the grass. The moss was 
like velvet, and as I ran under the arches of yellow and 
red leaves I sang for joy, my heart was so bright and the 
world so beautiful. I stopped at the end of the walk and 
saw the sunshine out over the wide "Virginia meadows." 

It seemed like going through a dark life or grave into 
heaven beyond. A very strange and solemn feeling came 
over me as I stood there, with no sound but the rustle of 
the pines, no one near me, and the sun so glorious, as 
for me alone. It seemed as if I felt God as I never did 
before, and I prayed in my heart that I might keep that 
happy sense of nearness all my life. 

[I have, for I most sincerely think that the little girl "pot 
religion " that day in the wood when dear mother Nature led 
her to God. - - L. M. A., 1885.] 

One of Louisa's strongest desires at this time 
was for a room of her own, where she might have 
the solitude she craved to dream her dreams and 
work out her fancies. These sweet little notes and 
an extract from her journal show how this desire 
was felt and gratified. 

DEAREST MOTHER, I have tried to be more con- 
tented, and I think I have been more so. I have been 

46 Loriisa May Alcott. 

thinking about my little room, which I suppose I never 
shall have. I should want to be there about all the 
time, and I should go there and sing and think. 

But I '11 be contented 

With what I have got; 
Of folly repented, 

Then sweet is my lot. 

From your trying daughter, 


MY DEAR LOUISA, - - Your note gave me so much de- 
light that I cannot close my eyes without first thanking 
you, dear, for making me so happy, and blessing God 
who gave you this tender love for your mother. 

I have observed all day your patience with baby, your 
obedience to me, and your kindness to all. 

Go on " trying," my child ; God will give you strength 
and courage, and help you fill each day with words and 
deeds of love. I shall lay this on your pillow, put a 

warm kiss on your lips, and say a little prayer over you 
in your sleep. 


MY LOUY, I was grieved at your selfish behavior this 
morning, but also greatly pleased to find you bore so 
meekly Father's reproof for it. That is the way, dear ; 
if you find you are wrong, take the discipline sweetly, 
and do so no more. It is not to be expected that chil- 
dren should always do right ; but oh, how lovely to see 
a child penitent and patient when the passion is over. 

I thought a little prayer as I looked at you, and said 
in my heart, " Dear God, sustain my child in this moment 
of trial, that no hasty word, no cruel look, no angry ac- 
tion may add to her fault." And you were helped. I 
know that you will have a happy day after the storm and 

Fruitlands. 47 

the gentle shower keep quiet, read, walk, but do not 
talk much till all is peace again. 



DEAR, I am glad you put your heart in the right 
place ; for I am sure all true strength comes from above. 
Continue to feel that God is near you, dear child, and 
He never will forsake you in a weak moment. Write me 
always when you feel that I can help you ; for, though 
God is near, Mother never forgets you, and your refuge 
is her arms. 

Patience, dear, will give us content, if nothing else. 
Be assured the little room you long for will come, if it is 
necessary to your peace and well-being. Till then try 
to be happy with the good things you have. They are 
many, - - more perhaps than we deserve, after our fre- 
quent complaints and discontent. 

Be cheerful, my Louy, and all will be gayer for your 
laugh, and all good and lovely things will be given to 
you when you deserve them. 

I am a busy woman, but never can forget the calls of 
my children. 


DEAREST, I am sure you have lived very near to God 
to-aa\, you have been so good and happy. Let each day 
be like this, and life will become a sweet song for you and 
all who love you, none so much as your 


Thirteen Years Old. 


March, 1846. I have at last got the little room I 
have wanted so long, and am very happy about it. It 

48 Louisa May Alcott. 

does me good to be alone, and Mother has made it very 
pretty and neat for me. My work-basket and desk are 
by the window, and my closet is full of dried herbs that 
smell very nice. The door that opens into the garden 
will be very pretty in summer, and I can run off to the 
woods when I like. 

I have made a plan for my life, as I am in my teens, 
and no more a child. I am old for my age, and don't 
care much for girl's things. People think I 'm wild and 
queer ; but Mother understands and helps me. I have 
not told any one about my plan ; but I 'm going to be 
good. I Ve made so many resolutions, and written sad 
notes, and cried over my sins, and it does n't seem to do 
any good ! Now I 'm going to work really, for I feel a 
true desire to improve, and be a help and comfort, not a 
care and sorrow, to my dear mother. 

Fifteen Years Old. 

Sunday, Oct. 9, 1847. I have been reading to-day 
Bettine's correspondence with Goethe. 

She calls herself a child, and writes about the lovely 
things she saw and heard, and felt and did. I liked it 

[First taste of Goethe. Three years later R. W. E. gave 
me "Wilhelm Meister," and from that day Goethe has been 
my chief idol. L. M. A., 1885.] 

The experiment at Fruitlands was (outwardly) 
an utter failure, and had exhausted Mr. Alcott's 
resources of mind, body, and estate. Louisa has 
not exaggerated the collapse which followed. But 
the brave, loving mother could not give way to 
despondency, for she had her young to care for. 
After a few days Mr. Alcott rose from his despair, 

Fruitlands. 49 

and listened to her counsel. They lived a short 
time at Still River, and then returned to Concord ; 
but not to the happy little cottage. 

Mr. Alcott sought such work as he could find to 
do with his hands ; but it was scanty and insufficient. 
Mrs. Alcott subdued her proud heart to the neces- 
sity of seeking help from friends. They had a few 
rooms in the house of a kind neighbor, who wel- 
comed them to her house, in addition to her own 
large family; and there they struggled with the 
poverty which Louisa for the first time fully 

Yet her journal says little of the hardships they 
endured, but is full of her mental and moral strug- 
gles. It was characteristic of this family that they 
never were conquered by their surroundings. Mr. 
Alcott might retire into sad and silent musing, Mrs. 
Alcott's warm, quick temper, might burst out into 
flame, the children might be quarrelsome or noisy; 
but their ideal of life always remained high, fresh, 
and ennobling. Their souls always " knew their 
destiny divine," and believed that they would find 
fitting expression in life some time. " Chill penury ' : 
could not repress " their noble rage," nor freeze 
" the genial current" of their souls. 

The children escaped from the privations of daily 
life into a world of romance, and in the plays in the 
old barn revelled in luxury and splendor. This 
dramatic tendency was very strong in Louisa, and 
she never outgrew it. It took various shapes and 
colors, and at one time threatened to dominate her 

The education of the children was certainly des- 


50 Louisa May Alcott. 

ultory and insufficient; but it was inspiring, and 
brought out their powers. They learned to feel and 
to think justly, and to express their thoughts and feel- 
ings freely and forcibly, if they did not know well the 
rules of grammar and rhetoric. Mr. Alcott always 
loved the study of language, and became a master 
of it; while Mrs. Alcott had a rich and well-chosen 
vocabulary, gained from the intelligent companions 
of her youth and the best literature, which she 
read freely. Mr. Alcott made great use of the 
study of language in his teaching, and often em- 
ployed the definition of a word to convey a lesson 
or a rebuke. The children were encotfraged, and 
even required, to keep their journals regularly, and 
to write letters. Their efforts at poetry or the 
drama were not laughed at, but treasured by their 
parents as indications of progress. Mr. Alcott's 
records of his own theory and practice in the edu- 
cation of children are full of valuable suggestion, 
and much yet remains buried in his journals. The 
girls had full freedom to act out their natures, with 
little fear of ridicule or criticism. An innate sense 
of dignity and modesty kept them from abusing 
this liberty ; and perhaps nowhere in the world 
could it have been more safely indulged than in the 
simple life of Concord, whose very atmosphere 
seemed then filled \vith a spiritual presence which 
made life free, pure, and serene. 

Louisa gives this interesting anecdote of their life 
at that time : 

People wondered at our frolics, but enjoyed them, and 
droll stories are still told of the adventures of those days. 

Fruitlands. 5 1 

Mr. Emerson and Margaret Fuller were visiting my par- 
ents one afternoon, and the conversation having turned 
to the ever interesting subject of education, Miss Fuller 
said : 

" Well, Mr. Alcctt, you have been able to carry out 
your methods in your own family, and I should like to 
see your model children." 

She did in a few moments, for as the guests stood on 
the door-steps a wild uproar approached, and round the 
corner of the house came a wheelbarrow holding baby 
May arrayed as a queen ; I was the horse, bitted and 
bridled, and driven by my elder sister Anna ; while Liz- 
zie played dog, and barked as loud as her gentle voice 

All were shouting and wild with fun, which, however, 
came to a sudden end as we espied the stately group be- 
fore us ; for my foot tripped, and down we all went in a 
laughing heap ; while my mother put a climax to the joke 
by saying, with a dramatic wave of the hand, 

" Here are the model children, Miss Fuller." 

They were undoubtedly very satisfactory to Miss 
Fuller, who partook largely of the educational 
views of that time, and who loved to tell anecdotes 
of this family. One of the sisters writes in her 
diary : " She said prayers ; but I think my resolu- 
tions to be good are prayers." 

In 1841 Colonel May, Mrs. Alcott's father, died 
and left her a small amount of property. Mrs. 
Alcott decided to purchase with this a house in 
Concord, and the addition of five hundred dollars 
from Mr. Emerson, who was always the good Provi- 
dence of the family, enabled her in 1845 to buy 
the place in Concord known as Hillside. This 

52 Louisa May Alcott. 

house is on the road to Lexington, about one third 
of a mile from Mr. Emerson's home. It was after- 
ward occupied by Mr. Hawthorne. 

In this house the girlish life of Louisa was 
passed, which she has represented so fully in 
" Little Women," and of which she speaks in her 
journal as the happiest time of her life. Yet she 
was not unmindful of the anxiety of her parents ; 
and the determined purpose to retrieve the for- 
tunes of the family and to give to her mother the 
comfort and ease which she had never known in 
her married life became the constant motive of her 
conduct. It is in the light of this purpose alone 
that her character and her subsequent career can 
be fully understood. She naturally thought of 
teaching as her work, and had for a short time a 
little school in the barn for Mr. Emerson's children 
and others. 

It was indeed a great comfort to be sure of the 
house over their heads, but there were still six 
mouths to be fed, six bodies to be clothed, and 
four young, eager minds to be educated. Concord 
offered very little opportunity for such work as 
either Mr. or Mrs. Alcott could do, and at last 
even the mother's brave heart broke down. She 
was painfully anxious about the support of her 
household. A friend passing through Concord 
called upon her, and Mrs. Alcott could not hide 
the traces of tears on her face. " Abby Alcott, 
what does this mean?' said the visitor, with de- 
termined kindness. The poor mother opened her 
heart to her friend, and told the story of their 
privations and sufferings. 

Fruitlands. 53 

" Come to Boston, and I will find you employ- 
ment," said the friend. 

The family removed to Boston in 1848, and Mrs. 
Alcott became a visitor to the poor in the employ 
of one or more benevolent societies, and finally 
kept an intelligence office. Her whole heart went 
into her work; and the children, as well as the 
mother, learned many valuable lessons from it. 
Her reports of her work are said to have been very 
interesting, and full of valuable suggestion. 

Mr. Alcott began to hold conversations in West 
Street. He attracted a small circle of thoughtful 
men and women about him, who delighted in the 
height of his aspirations and the originality of his 
thoughts. It was congenial occupation for him, 
and thus added to the happiness of the family, 
though very little to its pecuniary resources. His 
price of admission was small, and he freely invited 
any one who would enjoy the meetings although 
unable to pay for them. He was a great and help- 
ful influence to young minds. Besides the morally 
pure and spiritually elevated atmosphere of thought 
to which they were introduced by him, they found 
a great intellectual advantage in the acquaintance 
with ancient poets and philosophers, into whose 
life he had entered sympathetically. His peculiar 
theories of temperament and diet never failed to 
call out discussion and opposition. One of my 
earliest recollections of Louisa is on one of these 
occasions, when he was emphasizing his doctrine 
that a vegetable diet would produce unruffled sweet- 
ness of temper and disposition. I heard a voice 
behind me saying to her neighbor: " I don't know 

54 Louisa May Alcott. 

about that. I Ve never eaten any meat, and I 'm 
awful cross and irritable very often." 

On her fourteenth birthday her mother wrote 
her the following poem, with a present of a pen. It 
was a prophetic gift, and well used by the receiver. 

Oh, may this pen your muse inspire, 

When wrapt in pure poetic fire, 
To write some sweet, some thrilling verse ; 

A song of love or sorrow's lay, 
Or duty's clear but tedious way 

In brighter hope rehearse. 
Oh, let your strain be soft and high, 

Of crosses here, of crowns beyond the sky ; 
Truth guide your pen, inspire your theme, 

And from each note joy's music stream. 

[Original, I think. I have tried to obey. L. M. A., 

In a sketch written for a friend, Louisa gives this 
account of the parents' influence on the children : - 

When cautious friends asked mother how she dared to 
have such outcasts among her girls, she always answered, 
with an expression of confidence which did much to keep 
us safe, " I can trust my daughters, and this is the best 
way to teach them how to shun these sins and comfort 
these sorrow's. They cannot escape the knowledge of 
them ; better gain this under their father's roof and their 
mother's care, and so be protected by these experiences 
when their turn comes to face the world and its tempta- 
tions." Once we carried our breakfast to a starving 


family ; once lent our whole dinner to a neighbor sud- 
denly taken unprepared by distinguished guests. Another 
time, one snowy Saturday night, when our wood was very 
low, a poor child came to beg a little, as the baby was 

Fruitlands. 5 5 

sick and the father on a spree with all his wages. My 
mother hesitated at first, as we also had a baby. Very 
cold weather was upon us, and a Sunday to be got 
through before more wood could be had. My father 
said, " Give half our stock, and trust in Providence ; the 
weather will moderate, or wood will come." Mother 
laughed, and answered in her cheery way, " Well, their 
need is greater than ours, and if our half gives out we 
can go to bed and tell stories." So a generous half went 
to the poor neighbor, and a little later in the eve, while 
the storm still raged and we were about to cover our fire 
to keep it, a knock came, and a farmer who usually sup- 
plied us appeared, saying anxiously, " I started for Boston 
with a load of wood, but it drifts so I want to go home. 
Would n't you like to have me drop the wood here ; it 
would accommodate me, and you need n't hurry about 
paying for it." " Yes," said Father ; and as the man went 
off he turned to Mother with a look that much impressed 
us children with his gifts as a seer, " Did n't I tell you 
wood would come if the weather did not moderate?" 
Mother's motto was " Hope, and keep busy," and one 
of her sayings, " Cast your bread upon the waters, and 
after many days it will come back buttered." 




QUEEN of my tub, I merrily sing, 

While the white foam rises high, 
And sturdily wash, and rinse, and wring, 

And fasten the clothes to dry ; 
Then out in the free fresh air they swing, 

Under the sunny sky. 

I wish we could wash from our hearts and our souls 

The stains of the week away, 
And let water and air by their magic make 

Ourselves as pure as they ; 
Then on the earth there would be indeed 

A glorious washing-day ! 

Along the path of a useful life 

Will heart's-ease ever bloom ; 
The busy mind has no time to think 

Of sorrow, or care, or gloom ; 
And anxious thoughts may be swept away 

As we busily wield a broom. 

I am glad a task to me is given 

To labor at day by day ; 
For it brings me health, and strength, and hope, 

And I cheerfully learn to say, 
" Head, you may think ; heart, you may feel ; 

But hand, you shall work alway ! " 

THE period of free, happy childhood was neces- 
sarily short, and at about the age of fifteen 
Louisa Alcott began to feel the pressure of thoughts 
and duties which made life a more solemn matter. 

The Sentimental Period. 57 

In spite of the overflowing fun which appears in 
her books, her nature was very serious, and she 
could not cast aside care lightly. So many vary- 
ing tendencies existed in her character that she 
must have struggled with many doubts and ques- 
tions before finding the true path. But she always 
kept the pole-star of right strictly in view, and 
never failed in truth to that duty which seemed to 
her nearest and most imperative. If she erred in 
judgment, she did not err in conscientious fidelity. 
Her mother's rules for her guidance were 

Rule yourself. 

Love your neighbor. 

Do the duty which lies nearest you. 

She never lost sight of these instructions. 
I will introduce this period in her own words, as 
written later for the use of a friend. 

My romantic period began at fifteen, when I fell to 
writing poetry, keeping a heart -journal, and wandering 
by moonlight instead of sleeping quietly. About that 
time, in browsing over Mr. Emerson's library, I found 
Goethe's " Correspondence with a Child," and at once 
was fired with a desire to be a Bettine, making my 
father's friend my Goethe. So I wrote letters to him, 
but never sent them ; sat in a tall cherry-tree at mid- 
night, singing to the moon till the owls scared me to 
bed ; left wild flowers on the doorstep of my " Master," 
and sung Mignon's song under his window in very bad 

Not till many years later did I tell my Goethe of this 
early romance and the part he played in it. He was 
much amused, and begged for his letters, kindly saying 

58 Louisa May Alcott. 

he felt honored to be so worshipped. The letters were 
burnt long ago, but Emerson remained my " Master ' 
while he lived, doing more for me, - - as for many another, 
than he knew, by the simple beauty of his life, the truth 
and wisdom of his books, the example of a great, good 
man, untempted and unspoiled by the world which he 
made better while in it, and left richer and nobler when 
he went. 

The trials of life began about this time, and happy 
childhood ended. One of the most memorable days of 
my life is a certain gloomy November afternoon, when we 
had been holding a family council as to ways and means. 
In summer we lived much as the birds did, on our fruit 
and bread and milk ; the sun was our fire, the sky our 
roof, and Nature's plenty made us forget that such a 
thing as poverty existed. 

In 1850 she heads her diary "The Sentimental 
Period." She was then seventeen years old, but 
her diary gives no hint of the sentimental notions 
that often fill the heads of young girls at that 
period. The experiences of Jo with her charm- 
ing young neighbor in "Little Women" do not 
represent hers at all. 

One bit of romance was suggested by Goethe's 
" Correspondence with a Child." It may be diffi- 
cult for readers of to-day to understand the fasci- 
nation which this book exercised upon young 
minds of the last generation, yet it is certain that 
it led more than one young girl to form an ideal 
attachment to a man far older than herself, but full 
of nobility and intellectual greatness. Theodore 
Parker said of letters addressed to him by a young 
New Hampshire girl, " They are as good as Bet- 

The Sentimental Period. 59 

tine's without the lies." This mingling of idealism 
and hero-worship was strongly characteristic of 
that transcendental period when women, having 
little solid education and less industrial employ- 
ment, were full of noble aspirations and longings 
for fuller and freer life, which must find expression 
in some way. 

The young woman of to-day, wearing waterproof 
and india-rubber boots, skating, driving, and bicy- 
cling, studying chemistry in the laboratory, exhibit- 
ing her pictures in open competition, adopting a 
profession without opposition, and living single 
without fear of reproach, has less time for fancies 
and more regard for facts. 

Miss Alcott was safe In choosing her idol. Wor- 
ship of Emerson could only refine and elevate her 
thoughts, and her intimate acquaintance with his 
beautiful home chastened her idolatry into pure 
reverent friendship which never failed her. She 
kept her worship to herself, and never sent him 
the letters in which she poured out the longings 
and raptures which filled her girlish heart. 

Her diary, which was revised by herself in later 
years, tells the story of this period quite fully. 
The details may seem trifling, but they help to 
illustrate this important formative period. of her 



BOSTON, May, 1850. So long a time has passed since 
I kept a journal that I hardly know how to begin. Since 
coming to the city I don't seem to have thought much, 

60 Louisa May Alcott. 

for the bustle and dirt and change send all lovely images 
and restful feelings away. Among my hills and woods I 
had fine free times alone, and though my thoughts were 
silly, I daresay, they helped to keep me happy and good. 
I see now what Nature did for me, and my " romantic 
tastes," as people called that love of solitude and out-of- 
door life, taught me much. 

This summer, like the last, we shall spend in a large 
house (Uncle May's, Atkinson Street), with many com- 
forts about us which we shall enjoy, and in the autumn I 
hope I shall have something to show that the time has 
not been wasted. Seventeen years have I lived, and yet 
so little do I know, and so much remains to be done 
before I begin to be what I desire, a truly good and 
useful woman. 

In looking over our journals, Father says, " Anna's is 
about other people, Louisa's about herself." That is 
true, for I don't talk about myself ; yet must always 
think of the wilful, moody girl I try to manage, and in 
my journal I write of her to see how she gets on. Anna 
is so good she need not take care of herself, and can 
enjoy other people. If I look in my glass, I try to keep 
down vanity about my long hair, my well-shaped head, 
and my good nose. In the street I try not to covet 
fine things. My quick tongue is always getting me into 
trouble, and my moodiness makes it hard to be cheerful 
when I think how poor we are, how much worry it is 
to live, and how many things I long to do I never can. 

So every day is a battle, and I 'm so tired I don't 
want to live ; only it 's cowardly to die till you have done 

I can't talk to any one but Mother about my troubles, 
and she has so many now to bear I try not to add any 
more. I know God is always ready to hear, but heaven 's 

The Sentimental Period. 61 

so far away in the city, and I so heavy I can't fly up to 
find Him. 


Written in the diary. 

Oh, when the heart is full of fears 
And the way seems dim to heaven, 

When the sorrow and the care of years 
Peace from the heart has driven, - 

Then, through the mist of falling tears, 
Look up and be forgiven. 

Forgiven for the lack of faith 

That made all dark to thee, 
Let conscience o'er thy wayward soul 

Have fullest mastery : 
Hope on, fight on, and thou shalt win 

A noble victory. 

Though thou art weary and forlorn, 

Let not thy heart's peace go ; 
Though the riches of this world are gone, 

And thy lot is care and woe, 
Faint not, but journey hourly on : 

True wealth is not below. 

Through all the darkness still look up: 

Let virtue be thy guide ; 
Take thy draught from sorrow's cup, 

Yet trustfully abide; 
Let not temptation vanquish thee, 

And the Father will provide. 

[We had small-pox in the family this summer, caught from 
some poor immigrants whom mother took into our garden and 
fed one day. We girls had it lightly, but Father and Mother 
were very ill, and we had a curious time of exile, danger, and 
trouble. No doctors, and all got well. --L. M. A.] 

62 Louisa May Alcott. 

July, 1850. Anna is gone to L. after the varioloid. 

She is to help Mrs. with her baby. I had to take 

A.'s school of twenty in Canton Street. I like it better 
than I thought, though it 's very hard to be patient with 
the children sometimes. They seem happy, and learn 
fast ; so I am encouraged, though at first it was very hard, 
and I missed Anna so much I used to cry over my dinner 
and be very blue. I guess this is the teaching I need ; 
for as a school-marm I must behave myself and guard my 
tongue and temper carefully, and set an example of 
sweet manners. 

I found one of mother's notes in my journal, so like 
those she used to write me when she had more time. It 
always encourages me ; and I wish some one would write 
as helpfully to her, for she needs cheering up with all the 
care she has. I often think what a hard life she has had 
since she married, - - so full of wandering and all sorts of 
worry ! so different from her early easy days, the youngest 
and most petted of her family. I think she is a very 
brave, good woman ; and my dream is to have a lovely, 
quiet home for her, with no debts or troubles to burden 
her. But I 'm afraid she will be in heaven before I can 
do it. Anna, too, she is feeble and homesick, and I miss 
her dreadfully ; for she is my conscience, always true and 
just and good. She must have a good time in a nice 
little home of her own some day, as we often plan. But 
waiting is so hard ! 

August, 1850. School is hard work, and I feel as 
though I should like to run away from it. But my 
children get on ; so I travel up every day, and do 
my best. 

I get very little time to write *or think ; for my working 
days have begun, and when school is over Anna wants 
me ; so I have no quiet. I think a little solitude every 

The Sentimental Period. 63 

day is good for me. In the quiet I see my faults, and 
try to mend them ; but, deary me, I don't get on at 

I used to imagine my mind a room in confusion, and 
I was to put it in order ; so I swept out useless thoughts 
and dusted foolish fancies away, and furnished it with 
good resolutions and began again. But cobwebs get in. 
I 'm not a good housekeeper, and never get my room in 
nice order. I once wrote a poem about it when I was 
fourteen, and called it " My Little Kingdom." It is still 
hard to rule it, and always will be I think. 

Reading Miss Bremer and Hawthorne. The " Scarlet 
Letter" is my favorite. Mother likes Miss B. better, as 
more wholesome. I fancy " lurid ' things, if true and 
strong also. 

Anna wants to be an actress, and so do I. We could 
make plenty of money perhaps, and it is a very gay life. 
Mother says we are too young, and must wait. A. acts 
often splendidly. I like tragic plays, and shall be a Sid- 
dons if I can. We get up fine ones, and make harps, 
castles, armor, dresses, water-falls, and thunder, and have 
great fun. 

It was at this period of her life that she was vio- 
lently attacked by a mania for the stage, and the 
greater part of her leisure time was given to writing 
and enacting dramas. Her older sister, Anna, had 
the same taste, and assisted her in carrying out all 
her plans. A family of great talent with whom 
they were intimate joined with them, and their 
mother always allowed them to have all the private 
theatricals they wished to perform. 

Some of these early plays are preserved in man- 
uscripts as she wrote them. They are written in 

64 Louisa May Alcott. 

stilted, melodramatic style, full of highstrung senti- 
ments of loyalty, honor and devotion, with the 
most improbable incidents and violent devices, and 
without a touch of common life or the slightest 
flavor of humor. The idea of self-sacrifice always 
comes into them ; but they are thoroughly girlish. 
It is so that girls dream and feel before they know 
life at all. Their hearts are full of vague, restless 
longings, and they seek some vent for the repressed 
energies of their natures away from the prosaic re- 
alities of the present. While Louisa sat sewing 
the tedious seams of her daily task what a relief it 
was to let her imagination run riot among the 
wildest and most exciting scenes. Of course she 
had a " Bandit's Bride " among her plays. " The 
Captive of Castile ; or, The Moorish Maiden's 
Vow," is preserved entire, and is a good specimen 
of these girlish efforts. It is full of surprises 
and concealments, and the denouement is as un- 
natural as could well be imagined. The dialogue 
is often bright and forcible, and the sentiments 
always lofty, and we have no doubt it seemed very 
grand to the youthful audience. It is taken from 
her reading, with no touch of her own life in it. This 
is not the same play described with such a ludicrous 
finale in <l Little Women," although the heroine 
bears the same favorite name of Zara. Her own 
early amusement was, however, fully in her mind 
when she wrote that scene, which is true to fact. 

A friend and relative of the family living in Rox- 
bury, Dr. Windship, was much interested in the 
development of Louisa's dramatic talent. The 
girls always enjoyed delightful visits at his house. 

TJie Sentimental Period. 65 

He tried to help the young dramatist to public suc-- 
cess, and writes to her mother : 

I have offered to Mr. Barry of the Boston Theatre 
Louisa's " Prima Donnas." He is very much pleased 
with it just as it is, and will bring it out this season in 
good style. He thinks it will have a fine run. 

Mrs. Barry and Mrs. Wood consented to take 
the principal characters. But from some difficulty 
in the arrangements " The Rival Prima Donnas" 
was not produced. One great pleasure was gained, 
however, as Mr. Barry gave her a free pass to the 
theatre, which proved a source of constant refresh- 
ment and delight. 

Of course Louisa was eager to go on to the stage 
herself. She had indeed extraordinary dramatic 
power, and could at any time quickly transform 
herself into Hamlet, and recite a scene with tragic 
effect. But the careful mother knew better than 
the girl the trials and dangers of the profession, 
and dissuaded her from it. She also knew how 
little such youthful facility of expression indi- 
cates the power which will make a great actress. 
Louisa has reproduced her dramatic experience in 
<l Work," which gives a picture faithful in spirit 
and in many of its details to this phase of her life. 
She here indicates a knowledge of her own limi- 
tation of talent. " Christie's gala" was a part quite 
after her own heart. 

A farce, called " Nat Batchelor's Pleasure Trip; 
or, The Trials of a Good-natured Man," was brought 
out at the Howard Athenaeum. The papers of the 
day said of it: " It is a creditable first attempt at 


66 Louisa May Alcott. 

dramatic composition, and received frequent ap- 
plause." Another critic says : " It proved a full 
success." This performance, however, took place 
in 1860, a later period than that of which I am 
now speaking. 

An incident which occurred at this representation 
probably suggested scenes which recur in " Work ' 
and other of Miss Alcott's stories. 

Quite a hit was made by a little girl, a Miss Jones, 
who, having to speak but a few lines, spoke them so well 
that upon her exit she received the rare compliment of an 
enthusiastic recall from the audience, despite the fact 
that " some necessary question of the play was then to be 
considered." For the time being she certainly was the 
sensation of the piece. 

Miss Alcott had in Dr. Windship a kind and 
judicious helper in her dramatic undertakings, with 
whom she kept up a correspondence under the 
names of Beaumont and Fletcher. 

In 1851 Louisa had an experience which she has 
reproduced in her story called " How I Went Out 
to Service." Her mother's work among the poor 
of Boston led to her being applied to for employ- 
ment, and at one time she kept a regular intelligence 
office. A gentleman came to her seeking a com- 
panion for his aged father and sister, who was to 
do only light work, and to be treated with the 
greatest respect and kindness. As Mrs. Alcott did 
not readily think of any who would fill the place, 
the impulsive Louisa suggested, " Why could n't I 
go, Mother ? ' She went, and had two months of 
disappointment and painful experience which she 

The Sentimental Period. 67 

never forgot. She wrote out the story which was 
published later, called " How I Went Out to Ser- 


The story has an important lesson for those who 
condemn severely young girls who prefer the more 
independent life of the factory or shop to what 
is considered the safety and comfort of service in 
families. If a girl like Louisa Alcott, belonging to 
a well-known, highly esteemed family, and herself 
commanding respect by her abilities and character, 
could be treated with such indignity by a family in 
which no one would have feared to place her, how 
much may not a poor unfriended girl be called 
upon to endure ! 


1851. We went to a meeting, and heard splendid 
speaking from Phillips, Channing, and others. People 
were much excited, and cheered " Shadrack and liberty," 
groaned for "Webster and slavery," and made a great 
noise. I felt ready to do anything, fight or work, hoot 
or cry, and laid plans to free Simms. I shall be hor- 
ribly ashamed of my country if this thing happens and 
the slave is taken back. 

[He was. L. M. A.] 

1852. High Street, Boston. After the small-pox 
summer, we went to a house in High Street. Mother 
opened an intelligence office, which grew out of her city 
missionary work and a desire to find places for good 
girls. It was not fit work for her, but it paid ; and she 
always did what came to her in the way of duty or char- 
ity, and let pride, taste, and comfort suffer for love's 

68 Louisa May Alcott. 

Anna and I taught ; Lizzie was our little housekeeper, 
our angel in a cellar kitchen May went to school ; 
father wrote and talked when he could get classes or 
conversations. Our poor little home had much love and 
happiness in it, and was a shelter for lost girls, abused 
wives, friendless children, and weak or wicked men. 
Father and Mother had no money to give, but gave 
them time, sympathy, help ; and if blessings would make 
them rich, they would be millionnaires. This is practical 

My first story was printed, and $5 paid for it. It was 
written in Concord when I was sixteen. Great rubbish ! 
Read it aloud to sisters, and when they praised it, not 
knowing the author, I proudly announced her name. 

Made a resolution to read fewer novels, and those only 
of the best. List of books I like : 

Carlyle's French Revolution and Miscellanies. 

Hero and Hero- Worship. 

Goethe's poems, plays, and novels. 

Plutarch's Lives. 

Madame Guion. 

Paradise Lost and Comus. 

Schiller's Plays. 

Madame de Stae'l. 


Louis XIV. 

Jane Eyre. 



Uncle Sam. 

Emerson's Poems. 

In " Little Women " (p. 174), she has told a story 
which has usually been supposed to represent her 
first success in literature ; but she has transferred 
the incident from her sister to her own representa- 

The Sentimental Period. 69 

tive, Jo. It was the quiet Anna who had secretly 
written a story and fastened it inside of a news- 
paper. She read it to her mother and sisters, as 
described in the book, and was very much de- 
lighted with their approbation and astonishment. 

1853. In January I started a little school, E. W., 
W. A., two L's, two H's, about a dozen in our parlor. 
In May, when my school closed, I went to L. as second 
girl. I needed the change, could do the wash, and was 
glad to earn my $2 a week. Home in October with $34 
for my wages. After two days' rest, began school again 
with ten children. Anna went to Syracuse to teach ; 
Father to the West to try his luck, so poor, so hopeful, 
so serene. God be with him ! Mother had several 
boarders, and May got on well at school. Betty was 
still the home bird, and had a little romance with C. 

Pleasant letters from Father and Anna. A hard year. 
Summer distasteful and lonely ; winter tiresome with 
school and people I did n't like. I miss Anna, my one 
bosom friend and comforter. 

1854. Pinckney Street. I have neglected my jour- 
nal for months, so must write it up. School for me 
month after month. Mother busy with boarders and 
sewing. Father doing as well as a philosopher can in 
a money-loving world. Anna at S. 

I earned a good deal by sewing in the evening when 
my day's work was done. 

In February Father came home. Paid his way, but no 
more. A dramatic scene when he arrived in the night. 
We were waked by hearing the bell. Mother flew down, 
crying " My husband ! ' We rushed after, and five white 
figures embraced the half-frozen wanderer who came in 
hungry, tired, cold, and disappointed, but smiling bravely 

Louisa May Alcott. 

and as serene as ever. We fed and warmed and brooded 
over him, longing to ask if he had made any money ; but 
no one did till little May said, after he had told all the 
pleasant things, "Well, did people pay you ?" Then, 
with a queer look, he opened his pocket-book and 
showed one dollar, saying with a smile that made our 
eyes fill, < l Only that ! My overcoat was stolen, and I 
had to buy a shawl. Many promises were not kept, and 
travelling is costly ; but I have opened the way, and 
another year shall do better." 

I shall never forget how beautifully Mother answered 
him, though the dear, hopeful soul had built much on his 
success ; but with a beaming face she kissed him, saying, 
" I call that doing very well. Since you are safely home, 
dear, we don't ask anything more." 

Anna and I choked down our tears, and took a little 
lesson in real love which we never forgot, nor the look 
that the tired man and the tender woman gave one 
another. It was half tragic and comic, for Father was 
very dirty and sleepy, and Mother in a big nightcap and 
funny old jacket. 

[I began to see the strong contrasts and the fun and follies 
in every-day life about this time. L. M. A.] 

Anna came home in March. Kept our school all 
summer. I got " Flower Fables ' : ready to print. 

Louisa also tried service with a relative in the 
country for a short time, but teaching, sewing, and 
writing were her principal occupations during this 
residence in Boston. 

These seven years, from Louisa's sixteenth to her 
twenty-third year, might be called an apprentice- 
ship to life. She tried various paths, and learned 
to know herself and the world about her, although 

The Sentimental Period. 71 

she was not even yet certain of success in the 
way which finally opened before her and led her 
so successfully to the accomplishment of her life- 
purpose. She tried teaching, without satisfaction 
to herself or perhaps to others. The kind of edu- 
cation she had herself received fitted her admirably 
to understand and influence children, but not to 
carry on the routine of a school. Sewing was her 
resource when nothing else offered, but it is almost 
pitiful to think of her as confined to such work 
when great powers were lying dormant in her 
mind. Still, Margaret Fuller said that a year of 
enforced quiet in the country devoted mainly to 
sewing was very useful to her, since she reviewed 
and examined the treasures laid up in her memory; 
and doubtless Louisa Alcott thought out many a 
story which afterward delighted the world while 
her fingers busily plied the needle. Yet it was a 
great deliverance when she first found that the 
products of her brain would bring in the needed 
money for family support. 

L. in Boston to A. in Syracuse. 

THURSDAY, 27th. 

DEAREST NAN, I was so glad to hear from you, and 
hear that all were well. 

I am grubbing away as usual, trying to get money 
enough to buy Mother a nice warm shawl. I have eleven 
dollars, all my own earnings, five for a story, and four 
for the pile of sewing I did for the ladies of Dr. Gray's 
society, to give him as a present. 

... I got a crimson ribbon for a bonnet for May, and 

7 2 Loidsa May Alcott. 

I took my straw and fixed it nicely with some little duds I 
had. Her old one has haunted me all winter, and I want 
her to look neat. She is so graceful and pretty and loves 
beauty so much, it is hard for her to be poor and wear 
other people's ugly things. You and I have learned not 
to mind much ; but when I think of her I long to dash 
out and buy the finest hat the limited sum of ten dollars 
can procure. She says so sweetly in one of her letters : 
" It is hard sometimes to see other people have so many 
nice things and I so few ; but I try not to be envious, but 
contented with my poor clothes, and cheerful about it." 
I hope the little dear will like the bonnet and the frills 
I made her and some bows I fixed over from bright rib- 
bons L. W. threw away. I get half my rarities from her 
rag-bag, and she does n't know her own rags when fixed 
over. I hope I shall live to see the dear child in silk 
and lace, with plenty of pictures and " bottles of cream," 
Europe, and all she longs for. 

For our good little Betty, who is wearing all the old 
gowns we left, I shall soon be able to buy a new one, and 
send it with my blessing to the cheerful saint. She writes 
me the funniest notes, and tries to keep the old folks 
warm and make the lonely house in the snowbanks cosey 
and bright. 

To Father I shall send new neckties and some paper ; 
then he will be happy, and can keep on with the beloved 
diaries though the heavens fall. 

Don't laugh at my plans ; I '11 carry them out, if I go 
to service to do it. Seeing so much money flying about, 
I long to honestly get a little and make my dear family 
more comfortable. I feel weak-minded when I think of 
all they need and the little I can do. 

Now about you : Keep the money you have earned by 
so many tears and sacrifices, and clothe yourself; for it 

The Sentimental Period. 73 

makes me mad to know that my good little lass is going 
round in shabby things, and being looked down upon by 
people who are not worthy to touch her patched shoes or 
the hem of her ragged old gowns. Make yourself tidy, 
and if any is left over send it to Mother ; for there are 
always many things needed at home, though they won't 
tell us. I only wish I too by any amount of weeping 
and homesickness could earn as much. But my mite 
won't come amiss ; and if tears can add to its value, I 've 
shed my quart, first, over the book not coming out ; for 
that was a sad blow, and I waited so long it was dreadful 
when my castle in the air came tumbling about rny ears. 
Pride made me laugh in public ; but I wailed in private, 
and no one knew it. The folks at home think I rather 
enjoyed it, for I wrote a jolly letter. But my visit was 
spoiled ; and now I *m digging away for dear life, that I 
may not have come entirely in vain. I did n't mean to 
groan about it ; but my lass and I must tell some one our 
trials, and so it becomes easy to confide in one another. 
I never let Mother know how unhappy you were in S. till 
Uncle wrote. 

My doings are not much this week. I sent a little tale 
to the " Gazette," and Clapp asked H. W. if five dollars 
would be enough. Cousin H. said yes, and gave it to me, 
with kind words and a nice parcel of paper, saying in his 
funny way, " Now, Lu, the door is open, go in and win." 
So I shall try to do it. Then cousin L. W. said Mr. 
B. had got my play, and told her that if Mrs. B. liked it 
as well, it must be clever, and if it did n't cost too much, 
he would bring it out by and by. Say nothing about it 
yet. Dr. W. tells me Mr. F. is very sick ; so the farce 
cannot be acted yet. But the Doctor is set on its com- 
ing out, and we have fun about it. H. W. takes me 
often to the theatre when L. is done with me. I read to 

74 Louisa May Alcott. 

her all the P. M. often, as she is poorly, and in that way 
I pay my debt to them. 

I 'm writing another story for Clapp. I want more 
fives, and mean to have them too. 

Uncle wrote that you were Dr. W.'s pet teacher, and 
every one loved you dearly. But if you are not well, 
don't stay. Come home, and be cuddled by your 
old Lu. 




SITTING patient in the shadow 

Till the blessed light shall come, 
A serene and saintly presence 

Sanctifies our troubled home. 
Earthly joys and hopes and sorrows 

Break like ripples on the strand 
Of the deep and solemn river, 

Where her willing feet now stand. 

O my sister, passing from me 

Out of human care and strife, 
Leave me as a gift those virtues 

Which have beautified your life. 
Dear, bequeath me that great patience 

Which has power to sustain 
A cheerful, uncomplaining spirit 

In its prison-house of pain. 

Give me for I need it sorely 

Of that courage, wise and sweet, 
Which has made the path of duty 

Green beneath your willing feet. 
Give me that unselfish nature 

That with charity divine 
Can pardon wrong for love's dear sake, 

Meek heart, forgive me mine ! 

Thus our parting daily loseth 
Something of its bitter pain, 

And while learning this hard lesson 
My great loss becomes my gain ; 

76 Louisa May Alcott. 

For the touch of grief will render 

My wild nature more serene, 
Give to life new aspirations, 

A new trust in the unseen. 

Henceforth safe across the river 

I shall see forevermore 
A beloved household spirit 

Waiting for me on the shore ; 
Hope and faith, born of my sorrow, 

Guardian angels shall become ; 
And the sister gone before me 

By their hands shall lead me home. 

WHEN only twenty-two years old Miss Alcott 
began her career of authorship by launch- 
ing a little flower bark, which floated gaily on the 
stream. She had always written poems, plays, and 
stories for her own and her friends' pleasure, and 
now she gathered up some tales she had written 
for Mr. Emerson's daughter, and published them 
under the name of " Flower Fables." She received 
the small amount of thirty-two dollars for the book ; 
but it gave her the great satisfaction of having 
earned it by work that she loved, and which she 
could do well. She began to have applications for 
stories from the papers ; but as yet sewing and 
teaching paid better than writing. While she sewed 
her brain was busy with plans of poems, plays, and 
tales, which she made use of at a later period. 

The following letter to her mother shows how 
closely she associated her with this early suc- 
cess : 

20 PlNCKNEY STREET, BOSTON, Dec. 25, 1854. 

(With " Flower Fables.") 

DEAR MOTHER, Into your Christmas stocking I 
have put my " first-born," knowing that you will accept 

Authorship. 77 

it with all its faults (for grandmothers are always kind), 
and look upon it merely as an earnest of what I may yet 
do ; for, with so much to cheer me on, I hope to pass in 
time from fairies and fables to men and realities. 

Whatever beauty or poetry is to be found in my little 
book is owing to your interest in and encouragement of 
all my efforts from the first to the last ; and if ever I do 
anything to be proud of, my greatest happiness will be 
that I can thank you for that, as I may do for all the good 
there is in me ; and I shall be content to write if it gives 
you pleasure. 

Jo 5s fussing about ; 
My lamp is going out. 

To dear mother, with many kind wishes for a happy 
New Year and merry Christmas. 

I am ever your loving daughter 


This letter shows that she had already begun to 
see that she must study not only fairies and fan- 
cies, but men and realities ; and she now began to 
observe life, not in books, but as it went on around 
her. In the intense excitement of the anti-slavery 
struggles of that period she might well learn how 
full of dramatic situations and the elements of both 
tragedy and comedy real human life is. She says : 
" I began to see the strong contrasts and fun and 
frolic in every day life about this time." She also 
considered her reading, and tried to make it more 
thorough and profitable ; and she did not " waste 
even ink on poems and fancies," but planned stories, 
that everything might help toward her great ob- 
ject of earning support for her family. 

78 Louisa May Alcott. 

In June, 1855, Miss Alcott went to Walpole, 
N. H., where she had a free life among the hills 
for a few months. It must have been a great re- 
freshment to her after the winter's work in the city. 
In July the family followed her thither, and occu- 
pied a small house. The country life and joy soon 
began to find expression, and she wrote a little 
story called " King Goldenrod," which she says 
" ought to be fresh and true," as written at that beau- 
tiful time and place. But this pleasant country life 
was for a short season only ; and in chill November 
she set out for the city, with brave heart and scanty 
outfit, to seek her fortune once more. While still 
continuing to sew as a means of livelihood, she 
began to try a great variety of literary ventures. 
She wrote notices of books for the papers, and at 
one time got five dollars for a story, besides twelve 
dollars for sewing. The following year the pub- 
lishers began to find out the value of her work, and 
to call for more stories. Even her poems were ac- 
cepted. Little Nell was then the favorite heroine 
of Dickens, and Louisa's poem on that subject was 
published in the " Courier." Although she at first 
enjoyed the beautiful scenery of Walpole, she found 
the dull little town did not offer her the opportuni- 
ties for work that she needed ; and leaving her 
family there, she came down to Boston to seek her 
fortune, and went to the well-known boarding- 
house of Mrs. David Reed on Chauncey Street. 
The happy home which she had here during the 
winter is represented as Mrs. Kirke's house in 
" Little Women," and Jo's garret is the sky-parlor in 
which she lived and wrote. She had a rich winter, 

A uthorship. 79 

hearing many of the finest lectures, and enjoying 
her free pass to the theatre. One of her greatest 
helps, however, was the friendship of Theodore 
Parker, who took great interest in her struggles, 
and wisely strengthened and encouraged her. She 
loved to go to his Sunday evening receptions, and 
sit quietly watching the varied company who col- 
lected there ; and a word or pressure of the hand 
from her host was enough to cheer her for the 
whole week. She has gratefully recorded this in- 
fluence in her sketch of Mr. Power in "Work; ' 
but she has not given to that delineation the strik- 
ing personality of her subject which we should 
have expected of her. She then perhaps looked up 
to him too much to take note of the rich elements 
of wit and humor in his nature, and has painted him 
wholly seriously, and with a colorless brush. 


Twenfy-tzvo Years Old. 

PIXCKXEY STREET, BOSTON, y<z. i, 1855. The prin- 
cipal event of the winter is the appearance of my book 
" Flower Fables." An edition of sixteen hundred. It 
has sold very well, and people seem to like it. I feel 
quite proud that the little tales that I wrote for Ellen E. 
when I was sixteen should now bring money and fame. 

I will put in some of the notices as " varieties." 
Mothers are always foolish over their first-born. 

Miss Wealthy Stevens paid for the book, and I re- 
ceived $32. 

[A pleasing contrast to the receipts of six months only in 
1886, being $8000 for the sale of books, and no new one ; 
but I was prouder over the $32 than the $8000. --L. M. A., 

So Louisa May Alcott. 

April, 1855. I am in the garret with my papers 
round me, and a pile of apples to eat while I write my 
journal, plan stories, and enjoy the patter of rain on the 
roof, in peace and quiet. 

[Jo in the garret. L. M. A.] 

Being behindhand, as usual, I '11 make note of the 
main events up to date, for I don't waste ink in poetry 
and pages of rubbish now. I Ve begun to live, and have 
no time for sentimental musing. 

In October I began my school ; Father talked, Mother 
looked after her boarders, and tried to help everybody. 
Anna was in Syracuse teaching Mrs. S 's children. 

My book came out ; and people began to think that 
topsey-turvey Louisa would amount to something after 
all, since she could do so well as housemaid, teacher, 
seamstress, and story-teller. Perhaps she may. 

In February I wrote a story for which C. paid $5, and 
asked for more. 

In March I wrote a farce for W. Warren, and Dr. W. 
offered it to him ; but W. W. was too busy. 

Also began another tale, but found little time to work 
on it, with school, sewing, and house-work. My winter's 
earnings are, 

School, one quarter $50 

Sewing $50 

Stories $20 

if I am ever paid. 

A busy and a pleasant winter, because, though hard 
at times, I do seem to be getting on a little ; and that 
encourages me. 

Have heard Lowell and Hedge lecture, acted in plays, 
and thanks to our rag-money and good cousin H., have 
been to the theatre several times, always my great joy. 

Authors] tip. 81 

Summer plans are yet unsettled. Father wants to go 
to England : not a wise idea, I think. We shall prob- 
ably stay here, and A. and I go into the country as gov- 
ernesses. It 's a queer way to live, but dramatic, and I 
rather like it ; for we never know what is to come next. 
We are real " Micawbers," and always " ready for a 

I have planned another Christmas book, and hope to 
be able to write it. 

1855. Cousin L. W. asks me to pass the summer at 
Walpole with her. If I can get no teaching, I shall 
go ; for I long for the hills, and can write my fairy tales 

I delivered my burlesque lecture on " Woman, and Her 
Position ; by Oronthy Bluggage," last evening at Deacon 
G.'s. Had a merry time, and was asked by Mr. W. to 
do it at H. for money. Read " Hamlet ' at our club, 
my favorite play. Saw Mrs. W. H. Smith about the 
farce ; says she will do it at her benefit. 

May. Father went to C. to talk with Mr. Emerson 
about the England trip. I am to go to Walpole. I have 
made my own gowns, and had money enough to fit up 
the girls. So glad to be independent. 

[I wonder if $40 fitted up the whole family. Perhaps so, 
as my wardrobe was made up of old clothes from cousins and 
friends. L. at. A.] 

WALPOLE, N. H., June, 1855. Pleasant journey and 
a kind welcome. Lovely place, high among the hills. 
So glad to run and skip in the woods and up the splendid 
ravine. Shall write here, I know. 

Helped cousin L. in her garden ; and the smell of 
the fresh earth and the touch of green leaves did me 


82 Louisa May Alcott. 

Mr. T. came and praised my first book, so I felt much 
inspired to go and do another. I remember him at 
Scituate years ago, when he was a young ship-builder and 
I a curly-haired hoyden of five or six. 

Up at five, and had a lovely run in the ravine, seeing 
the woods wake. Planned a little tale which ought to be 
fresh and true, as it came at that hour and place, 
"King Goldenrod." Have lively days, writing in 
A. M., driving in p. M., and fun in eve. My visit is doing 
me much good. 

July, 1855.- -Read "Hyperion." On the i6th the 
family came to live in Mr. W.'s house rent free. No 
better plan offered, and we were all tired of the city. 
Here Father can have a garden ; Mother can rest and be 
near her good niece ; the children have freedom and fine 
air; and A. and I can go from here to our teaching, 
wherever it may be. 

Busy and happy times as we settle in the little house 
in the lane near by my dear ravine, plays, picnics, 
pleasant people, and good neighbors. Fanny Kemble 
came up, Mrs. Kirkland and others, and Dr. Bellows 
is the gayest of the gay. We acted the "Jacobite," 
" Rivals," and " Bonnycastles," to an audience of a hun- 
dred, and were noticed in the Boston papers. H. T. 
was our manager, and Dr. B., D. D., our dramatic direc- 
tor. Anna was the star, her acting being really very 
fine. I did " Mrs. Malaprop," " Widow Pottle," and the 
old ladies. 

Finished fairy book in September. Anna had an offer 
from Dr. Wilbur of Syracuse to teach at the great idiot 
asylum. She disliked it, but decided to go. Poor dear ! 
so beauty-loving, timid, and tender. It is a hard trial ; 
but she is so self-sacrificing she tries to like it because it 
is duty. 

Autfiorship. 83 

October. A. to Syracuse. May illustrated my book, 
and tales called " Christmas Elves." Better than " Flower 
Fables." Now I must try to sell it. 

[Innocent Louisa, to think that a Christmas book could 
be sold in October. L. M. A.] 

November. Decided to seek my fortune ; so, with 
my little trunk of home-made clothes, $20 earned by 
stories sent to the " Gazette," and my MSS., I set forth 
with Mother's blessing one rainy day in the dullest month 
in the year. 

[My birth-month ; always to be a memorable one. 

L. M. A.] 

Found it too late to do anything with the book, so put 
it away and tried for teaching, sewing, or any honest 
work. Won't go home to sit idle while I have a head 
and pair of hands. 

December. H. and L. W. very kind, and my dear 
cousins the Sewalls take me in. I sew for Mollie and 
others, and write stories. C. gave me books to notice. 
Heard Thackeray. Anxious times ; Anna very home-sick. 
Walpole very cold and dull now the summer butterflies 
have gone. Got $5 for a tale and $12 for sewing; sent 
home a Christmas-box to cheer the dear souls in the 

January, 1856. C. paid $6 for "A Sister's Trial," 
gave me more books to notice, and wants more tales. 

[Should think he would at that price. - - L. M. A.] 

Sewed for L. \V. Sewall and others. Mr. J. M. Field 
took my farce to Mobile to bring out ; Mr. Barry of the 
Boston Theatre has the play. 

Heard Curtis lecture. Began a book for summer, 
" Beach Bubbles." Mr. F. of the " Courier " printed a 

84 Louisa May Alcott. 

poem of mine on " Little Nell." Got $10 for " Bertha," 
and saw great yellow placards stuck up announcing it. 
Acted at the W.'s. 

March.- -Got $10 for " Genevieve." Prices go up, 
as people like the tales and ask who wrote them. Fin- 
ished "Twelve Bubbles." Sewed a great deal, and got 
very tired ; one job for Mr. G. of a dozen pillow-cases, 
one dozen sheets, six fine cambric neckties, and two 
dozen handkerchiefs', at which I had to work all one 
night to get them done, as they were a gift to him. I 
got only $4. 

Sewing won't make my fortune ; but I can plan my 
stories while I work, and then scribble 'em down on 

Poem on " Little Paul ; " Curtis's lecture on " Dickens ' 
made it go well. Hear Emerson on " England." 

May. Anna came on her way home, sick and worn 
out ; the work was too much for her. We had some 
happy days visiting about. Could not dispose of B. B. 
in book form, but C. took them for his paper. Mr. Field 
died, so the farce fell through there. Altered the play 
for Mrs. Barrow to bring out next winter. 

June, 1856. Home, to find dear Betty very ill with 
scarlet-fever caught from some poor children Mother 
nursed when they fell sick, living over a cellar where 
pigs had been kept. The landlord (a deacon) would 
not clean the place till Mother threatened to sue him 
for allowing a nuisance. Too late to save two of the 
poor babies or Lizzie and May from the fever. 

[L. never recovered, but died of it two years later. - 
L. M. A.] 

An anxious time. I nursed, did house-work, and wrote 
a story a month through the summer. 

Dr. Bellows and Father had Sunday eve conversations. 

Authorship. 85 

October. Pleasant letters from Father, who went on 
a tour to N. Y., Philadelphia, and Boston. 

Made plans to go to Boston for the winter, as there is 
nothing to do here, and there I can support myself and 
help the family. C. offers 10 dollars a month, and perhaps 
more. L. W., M. S., and others, have plenty of sewing ; 
the play may come out, and Mrs. R. will give me a sky- 
parlor for $3 a week, with fire and board. I sew for 
her also. 

If I can get A. L. to governess I shall be all right. 

I was born with a boy's spirit under my bib and tucker. 
I can't a/a// when I can work; so I took my little talent 
in my hand and forced the world again, braver than 
before and wiser for my failures. 

[Jo in N. Y. --L. M. A.] 

I don't often pray in words ; but when I set out that 
day with all my worldly goods in the little old trunk, my 
own earnings ($25) in my pocket, and much hope and 
resolution in my soul, my heart was very full, and I said 
to the Lord, " Help us all, and keep us for one another," 
as I never said it before, while I looked back at the dear 
faces watching me, so full of love and hope and faith. 


BOSTON, November, 1856. Mrs. David Reed's. I 
find my little room up in the attic very cosey, and a 
house full of boarders very amusing to study. Mrs. 
Reed very kind. Fly round and take C. his stories. 
Go to see Mrs. L. about A. Don't want me. A blow, 
but I cheer up and hunt for sewing. Go to hear Parker, 
and he does me good. Asks me to come Sunday eve- 
nings to his house. I did go there, and met Phillips, 
Garrison, Hedge, and other great men, and sit in my 
corner weekly, staring and enjoying myself. 

86 Louisa May Alcott. 

When I went Mr. Parker said, " God bless you, Louisa ; 
come again ; ' and the grasp of his hand gave me cour- 
age to face another anxious week. 

November ^d. Wrote all the morning. In the P.M. 
went to see the Sumner reception as he comes home 
after the Brooks affair. I saw him pass up Beacon 
Street, pale and feeble, but smiling and bowing. I 
rushed to Hancock Street, and was in time to see him 
bring his proud old mother to the window when the 
crowd gave three cheers for her. I cheered too, and 
was very much excited. Mr. Parker met him somewhere 
before the ceremony began, and the above P. cheered 
like a boy ; and Sumner laughed and nodded as his friend 
pranced and shouted, bareheaded and beaming. 

My kind cousin, L. W., got tickets for a course of lec- 
tures on "Italian Literature," and seeing my old cloak sent 
me a new one, with other needful and pretty things such 
as girls love to have. I shall never forget how kind she 
has always been to me. 

November $th. Went with H. W. to see Manager 
Barry about the everlasting play which is always coming 
out but never comes. We went all over the great new 
theatre, and I danced a jig on the immense stage. Mr. 
B. was very kind, and gave me a pass to come whenever 
I liked. This was such richness I did n't care if the play 
was burnt on the spot, and went home full of joy. In 
the eve I saw La Grange as Norma, and felt as if I 
knew all about that place. Quite stage-struck, and imag- 
ined myself in her place, with white robes and oak-leaf 

November 6th. Sewed happily on my job of twelve 
sheets for H. W., and put lots of good will into the work 
after his kindness to me. 

Walked to Roxbury to see cousin Dr. W. about the 

Authorship. 87 

play and tell the fine news. Rode home in the new cars, 
and found them very nice. 

In the eve went to teach at Warren Street Chapel 
Charity School. I '11 help as I am helped, if I can. 
Mother says no one so poor he can't do a little for some 
one poorer yet. 

Sunday. Heard Parker on " Individuality of Char- 
acter," and liked it much. In the eve I went to his 
house. Mrs. Howe was there, and Sumner and others. 
I sat in my usual corner, but Mr. P. carne up and said, 
in that cordial way of his, "Well, child, how goes it?' : 
" Pretty well, sir." " That 's brave ; ' and with his warm 
hand-shake he went on, leaving me both proud and 
happy, though I have my trials. He is like a great fire 
where all can come and be warmed and comforted. 
Bless him ! 

Had a talk at tea about him, and fought for him when 
W. R. said he was not a Christian. He is my sort; for 
though he may lack reverence for other people's God, 
he works bravely for his own, and turns his back on no 
one who needs help, as some of the pious do. 

Monday, i^th. May came full of expectation and 
joy to visit good aunt B. and study drawing. We walked 
about and had a good home talk, then my girl went off 
to Auntie's to begin what I hope will be a pleasant and 
profitable winter. She needs help to develop her talent, 
and I can't give it to her. 

Went to see Forrest as Othello. It is funny to see 
how attentive all the once cool gentlemen are to Miss 
Alcott now she has a pass to the new theatre. 

November 29 th. My birthday. Felt forlorn so far 
from home. Wrote all day. Seem to be getting on 
slowly, so should be contented. To a little party at the 
B.'s in the eve. May looked very pretty, and seemed 

88 Louisa May Alcott. 

to be a favorite. The boys teased me about being an 
authoress, and I said I 'd be famous yet. Will if I can, 
but something else may be better for me. 

Found a pretty pin from Father and a nice letter when 
I got home. Mr. H. brought them with letters from 
Mother and Betty, so I went to bed happy. 

December. - - Busy with Christmas and New Year's 
tales. Heard a good lecture by E. P. Whipple on 
" Courage." Thought I needed it, being rather tired of 
living like a spider, - - spinning my brains out for money. 

Wrote a story, " The Cross on the Church Tower," 
suggested by the tower before my window. 

Called on Mrs. L., and she asked me to come and 
teach A. for three hours each day. Just what I wanted ; 
and the children's welcome was very pretty and com- 
forting to " Our Oily," as they call me. 

Now board is all safe, and something over for home, if 
stories and sewing fail. I don't do much, but can send 
little comforts to Mother and Betty, and keep May neat. 

December i8t/i. Begin with A. L., in Beacon Street. 
I taught C. when we lived in High Street, A. in Pinckney 
Street, and now Al. ; so I seem to be an institution and a 
success, since I can start the boy, teach one girl, and 
take care of the little invalid. It is hard work, but I can 
do it ; and am glad to sit in a large, fine room part of 
each day, after my sky-parlor, which has nothing pretty 
in it, and only the gray tower and blue sky outside as I 
sit at the window writing. I love luxury, but freedom 
and independence better. 

To her Father, written from Mrs. Reed ' s. 

BOSTON, Nov. 29, 1856. 

DEAREST FATHER, Your little parcel was very wel- 
come to me as I sat alone in my room, with snow falling 

Authorship. 89 

fast outside, and a few tears in (for birthdays are dismal 
times to me) ; and the fine letter, the pretty gift, and, 
most of all, the loving thought so kindly taken for your 
old absent daughter, made the cold, dark day as warm 
and bright as summer to me. 

And now, with the birthday pin upon my bosom, many 
thanks on my lips, and a whole heart full of love for its 
giver, I will tell you a little about my doings, stupid as 
they will seem after your own grand proceedings. How I 
wish I could be with you, enjoying what I have always 
longed for, fine people, fine amusements, and fine 
books. But as I can't, I am glad you are ; for I love to 
see your name first among the lecturers, to hear it kindly 
spoken of in papers and inquired about by good people 
here, to say nothing of the delight and pride I take in 
seeing you at last filling the place you are so fitted for, 
and which you have waited for so long and patiently. 
If the New Yorkers raise a statue to the modern Plato, 
it will be a wise and highly creditable action. 


I am very well and very happy. Things go smoothly, 
and I think I shall come out right, and prove that though 
an Alcott I can support myself. I like the independent 
feeling ; and though not an easy life, it is a free one, and 
I enjoy it. I can't do much with my hands ; so I will 
make- a battering-ram of my head and make a way through 
this rough-and-tumble world. I have very pleasant lec- 
tures to amuse my evenings, Professor Gajani on 
" Italian Reformers," the Mercantile Library course, 
Whipple, Beecher, and others, and, best of all, a free pass 
at the Boston Theatre. I saw Mr. Barry, and he gave it 
to me with many kind speeches, and promises to bring 
out the play very soon. I hope he will. 

My farce is in the hands of Mrs. W. H. Smith, who 

90 Louisa May Alcott. 

acts at Laura Keene's theatre in New York. She took 
it, saying she would bring it out there. If you see or 
hear anything about it, let me know. I want something 
doing. My mornings are spent in writing. C. takes one 
a month, and I am to see Mr. B., who may take some of 
my wares. 

In the afternoons I walk and visit my hundred rela- 
tions, who are all kind and friendly, and seem interested 
in our various successes. 

Sunday evenings I go to Parker's parlor, and there meet 
Phillips, Garrison, Scherb, Sanborn, and many other pleas- 
ant people. All talk, and I sit in a corner listening, and 
wishing a certain placid gray-haired gentleman was there 
talking too. Mrs. Parker calls on me, reads my stories, 
and is very good to me. Theodore asks Louisa " how 
her worthy parents do," and is otherwise very friendly to 
the large, bashful girl who adorns his parlor steadily. 

Abby is preparing for a busy and, I hope, a profitable 
winter. She has music lessons already, French and draw- 
ing in store, and, if her eyes hold out, will keep her word 
and become what none of us can be, " an accomplished 
Alcott." Now, dear Father, I shall hope to hear from 
you occasionally, and will gladly answer all epistles from 
the Plato whose parlor parish is becoming quite famous. 
I got the "Tribune," but not the letter, and shall look it 
up. I have been meaning to write, but did not know 
where you were. 

Good-by, and a happy birthday from your ever loving 
child, LOUISA. 



Twenty-four Years Old. 

January, 1857.- -Had my first new silk dress from 
good little L. W., - - very fine ; and I felt as if all the 

Authorship. 91 

Hancocks and Quincys beheld me as I went to two 
parties in it on New Year's eve. 

A busy, happy month, - - taught, wrote, sewed, read 
aloud to the " little mother," and went often to the 

' X 

theatre heard good lectures ; and enjoyed my Parker 
evenings very much. 

Father came to see me on his way home ; little 
money ; had had a good time, and was asked to come 
again. Why don't rich people who enjoy his talk pay 
for it? Philosophers are always poor, and too modest to 
pass round their own hats. 

Sent by him a good bundle to the poor Forlornites 
among the ten-foot drifts in W. 

February.- -Ran home as a valentine on the i4th. 

March. Have several irons in the fire now, and try 
to keep 'em all hot. 

April. May did a crayon head of Mother with Mrs. 
Murdock; very good likeness. All of us as proud as 
peacocks of our " little Raphael." 

Heard Mrs. Butler read ; very fine. 

May. Left the L.'s with my thirty-three dollars ; 
glad to rest. May went home with her picture, happy 
in her winter's work and success. 

Father had three talks at W. F. Channing's. Good 
company, - - Emerson, Mrs. Howe, and the rest. 

Saw young Booth in Brutus, and liked him better than 
his father ; went about and rested after my labors ; glad 
to be with Father, who enjoyed Boston and friends. 

Home on the loth, passing Sunday at the Emerson's. 
I have done what I planned, supported myself, written 
eight stories, taught four months, earned a hundred dol- 
lars, and sent money home. 

June. - - All happy together. My dear Nan was with 
me, and we had good times. Betty was feeble, but 

92 Louisa May Alcott. 

seemed to cheer up for a time. The long, cold, lonely 
winter has been too hard for the frail creature, and we are 
all anxious about her. I fear she may slip away ; for she 
never seemed to care much for this world beyond home. 

So gradually the day seemed to be coming to 
which Louisa had long looked forward. She found 
that she could be independent, could help her fam- 
ily, and even indulge some of her own tastes. 

About this time Miss Alcott mentions a young 
friend who died in her arms, and speaks of going 
to console the sister in her loneliness. This 
shows how warmly her heart beat for others while 
her head was so busy with her ambitious plans. 
She speaks also of the hint of a new story called 
" The Cost of an Idea." She never lost sight of 
this plan, but did not carry it out. Her father's 
life and character were in her mind, and she longed 
to portray the conflict between his high ideal and 
the practical difficulties of his life ; but it was an 
impossible subject. The Fruitlands episode was 
told in " Transcendental Wild Oats," and his early 
life in " Elis's Education." But although her ad- 
miration and affection for him are abundantly shown 
in her journals, she never perhaps understood him 
so thoroughly that she could adequately portray 
his personality; neither could she do justice to all 
related to him without trenching upon the privacy 
due to sacred feelings. 

A great shadow fell over Louisa's heart and life 
from the increasing illness of her dear younger sister 
Elizabeth. This young girl was tenderly beloved 
by all the family, and was indeed as pure, refined, 


Home of the Alcott Family, 1858. 

Authorship. 93 

and holy as she is represented as Beth in " Little 
Women." Her decay was very gradual, and she 
was so patient and sweet that the sad time of anx- 
iety was a very precious one in remembrance. 

This sickness added to the pecuniary burdens of 
the family, and eight years afterward Louisa paid 
the bill of the physician who attended her sister. 

In October, 1857, the family removed again to 
Concord, and Louisa remained at home to assist in 
the care of the beloved invalid. They lived a few 
months in a part of a house which they hired until 
the Orchard House, which they had bought, was 
ready for them. Here the dear sister's life came 
to a close. 

This was the first break in the household, and 
the mother's heart never fully recovered from it. 
Louisa accepted death with strong, s\vect wisdom. 
It never seemed to have any terror for her. 

In July they took possession of the Orchard 
House, which was hereafter the permanent resi- 
dence of the family. This was a picturesque old 
house on the side of a hill, with an orchard of ap- 
ple-trees. It was not far from Mr. Emerson's, and 
within walking distance of the village, yet very 
quiet and rural. Mr. Alcott had his library, and 
was always very happy there ; but Louisa's heart 
never clung to it. 

The engagement of the elder sister was a very 
exciting event to Louisa, who did not like having 
the old sisterly relation broken in upon ; but every- 
thing was so genuine and true in the love of the 
newly betrothed pair that she could not help ac- 
cepting the change as a blessing to her sister and 

94 Louisa May Alcott. 

taking the new brother into her heart. The entries 
in her journal show that the picture she has drawn 
in " Little Women " of this noble man is from life, 
and not exaggerated. 

Louisa went to Boston for a visit, and again had 
hopes of going on to the stage ; but an accident 
prevented it ; and she returned to Concord and her 
writing, working off her disappointment in a story 
called " Only an Actress." 

Among her experiences at this time was an offer 
of marriage, about which she consulted her mother, 
telling her that she did not care for the lover very 
much. The wise mother saved her from the impulse 
to self-sacrifice, which might have led her to accept a 
position which would have given help to the family. 

Although this was not the only instance of offers 
of marriage, more or less advantageous, made to 
her, Louisa had no inclination toward matrimony. 
Her heart was bound up in her family, and she could 
hardly contemplate her own interests as separate 
from theirs. She loved activity, freedom, and inde- 
pendence. She could not cherish illusions ten- 
derly; and she always said that she got tired of 
everybody, and felt sure that she should of her 
husband if she married. She never wished to 
make her heroines marry, and the love story is the 
part of her books for which she cared least. She 
yielded to the desire of the public, who will not 
accept life without a recognition of this great joy 
in it. Still it must be acknowledged that she has 
sometimes painted very sweet and natural love 
scenes, although more often in quaint and homely 
guise than in the fashion of ancient romance. 

Authorship. 95 

" King of Clubs and Queen of Hearts ' is very 
prettily told ; and " Mrs. Todger's Teapot " is true 
to that quiet, earnest affection which does not pass 
away with youth. 

The writing went on, and she received five, six, 
or ten dollars apiece for her stories ; but she did 
not yet venture to give up the sewing and teaching, 
which was still the sure reliance. 

Her younger sister now began to exercise her 
talent, and illustrated a little book of Louisa's called 
" Christmas Elves," which she says is better than 
" Flower Fables." 


Read Charlotte Bronte's life. A very interesting, but 
sad one. So full of talent ; and after working long, just 
as success, love, and happiness come, she dies. 

Wonder if I shall ever be famous enough for people to 
care to read my story and struggles. I can't be a C. B., 
but I may do a little something yet. 

July. Grandma Alcott came to visit us. A sweet 
old lady ; and I am glad to know her, and see where 
Father got his nature. Eighty-four ; yet very smart, in- 
dustrious, and wise. A house needs a grandma in it. 

As we sat talking over Father's boyhood, I never real- 
ized so plainly before how much he has done for himself. 
His early life sounded like a pretty old romance, and 
Mother added the love passages. 

I got a hint for a story ; and some day will do it, and 
call it "The Cost of an Idea." Spindle Hill, Temple 
School, Fruitlands, Boston, and Concord, would make 
fine chapters. The trials and triumphs of the Pathetic 
Family would make a capital book ; may I live to do it. 

August. A sad, anxious month. Betty worse ; Mother 

96 Louisa May Alcott. 

takes her to the seashore. Father decides to go back to 
Concord ; he is never happy far from Emerson, the one 
true friend who loves and understands and helps him. 

September. An old house near R. W. E.'s is bought 
with Mother's money, and we propose to move. Mother 
in Boston with poor Betty, who is failing fast. Anna and 
I have a hard time breaking up. 

October. Move to Concord. Take half a house in 
town till spring, when the old one is to be made ready. 

Find dear Betty a shadow, but sweet and patient 
always. Fit up a nice room for her, and hope home 
and love and care may keep her. 

People kind and friendly, and the old place looks 
pleasant, though I never want to live in it. 

November. Father goes West, taking Grandma home. 
We settle down to our winter, whatever it is to be. Liz- 
zie seems better, and we have some plays. Sanborn's 
school makes things lively, and we act a good deal. 

Twenty-five this month. I feel my quarter of a cen- 
tury rather heavy on my shoulders just now. I lead two 
lives. One seems gay with plays, etc., the other very sad, 
in Betty's room ; for though she wishes us to act, and 
loves to see us get ready, the shadow is there, and Mother 
and I see it. Betty loves to have me with her; and I am 
with her at night, for Mother needs rest. Betty says she 
feels " strong " when I am near. So glad to be of use. 

December. Some fine plays for charity. 

January, 1858. Lizzie much worse ; Dr. G. says there 
is no hope. A hard thing to hear ; but if she is only to 
suffer, I pray she may go soon. She was glad to know 
she was to " get well," as she called it, and we tried to 
bear it bravely for her sake. We gave up plays ; Father 
came home ; and Anna took the housekeeping, so that 
Mother and I could devote ourselves to her. Sad, quiet 

Authorship. 97 

days in her room, and strange nights keeping up the fire 
and watching the dear little shadow try to wile away the 
long sleepless hours without troubling me. She sews, 
reads, sings softly, and lies looking at the fire, so sweet 
and patient and so worn, my heart is broken to see the 
change. I wrote some lines one night on " Our Angel in 
the House." 

[Jo and Beth. L. M. A.] 

February. A mild month ; Betty very comfortable, 
and we hope a little. 

Dear Betty is slipping away, and every hour is too 
precious to waste, so I '11 keep my lamentations over 
Nan's [affairs] till this duty is over. 

Lizzie makes little things, and drops them out of win- 
dows to the school-children, smiling to see their surprise. 
In the night she tells me to be Mrs. Gamp, when I give 
her her lunch, and tries to be gay that I may keep up. 
Dear little saint ! I shall be better all my life for these 
sad hours with you. 

March i^th. My dear Beth died at three this morn- 
ing, after two years of patient pain. Last week she put 
her work away, saying the needle was " too heavy," and 
having given us her few possessions, made ready for the 
parting in her own simple, quiet way. For two days she 
suffered much, begging for ether, though its effect was 
gone. Tuesday she lay in Father's arms, and called 
us round her, smiling contentedly as she said, " All 
here ! ' I think she bid us good-by then, as she held 
our hands and kissed us tenderly. Saturday she slept, 
and at midnight became unconscious, quietly breathing 
her life away till three ; then, with one last look of the 
beautiful eyes, she was gone. 

A curious thing happened, and I will tell it here, for 

98 Louisa May Alcott. 

Dr. G. said it was a fact. A few moments after the last 
breath came, as Mother and I sat silently watching the 
shadow fall on the dear little face, I saw a light mist 
rise from the body, and float up and vanish in the air. 
Mother's eyes followed mine, and when I said, "What 
did you see?' she described the same light mist. Dr. 
G. said it was the life departing visibly. 

For the last time we dressed her in her usual cap and 
gown, and laid her on her bed, at rest at last. What 
she had suffered was seen in the face ; for at twenty- three 
she looked like a woman of forty, so worn was she, and 
all her pretty hair gone. 

On Monday Dr. Huntington read the Chapel service, 
and we sang her favorite hymn. Mr. Emerson, Henry 
Thoreau, Sanborn, and John Pratt, carried her out of the 
old home to the new one at Sleepy Hollow chosen by 
herself. So the first break comes, and I know what 
death means, a liberator for her, a teacher for us. 

April. Came to occupy one wing of Hawthorne's 
house (once ours) while the new one was being re- 
paired. Father, Mother, and I kept house together ; 
May being in Boston, Anna at Pratt Farm, and, for the 
first time, Lizzie absent. I don't miss her as I expected 
to do, for she seems nearer and dearer than before ; and I 
am glad to know she is safe from pain and age in some 
world where her innocent soul must be happy. 

Death never seemed terrible to me, and now is 
beautiful ; so I cannot fear it, but find it friendly and 

May. A lonely month with all the girls gone, and 
Father and Mother absorbed in the old house, which I 
don't care about, not liking Concord. 

On the yth of April, Anna came walking in to tell us 
she was engaged to John Pratt ; so another sister is gone. 

Authorship. 99 

J. is a model son and brother, a true man, full of fine 
possibilities, but so modest one does not see it at once. 
He is handsome, healthy, and happy ; just home from 
the West, and so full of love he is pleasant to look at. 

I moaned in private over my great loss, and said I 'd 
never forgive J. for taking Anna from me ; but I shall if 
he makes her happy, and turn to little May for my comfort. 

[Now that John is dead, I can truly say we all had cause 
to bless the day he came into the family ; for we gained a 
son and brother, and Anna the best husband ever known. 

For ten years he made her home a little heaven of love 
and peace ; and when he died he left her the legacy of a beau- 
tiful life, and an honest name to his little sons. L. M. A., 

June. The girls came home, and I went to visit L. W. 
in Boston. Saw Charlotte Cushman, and had a stage- 
struck fit. Dr. W. asked Barry to let me act at his 
theatre, and he agreed. I was to do Widow Pottle, as 
the dress was a good disguise and I knew the part well. 
It was all a secret, and I had hopes of trying a new life ; 
the old one being so changed now, I felt as if I must 
find interest in something absorbing. But Mr. B. broke 
his leg, so I had to give it up ; and when it was known, 
the dear, respectable relations were horrified at the idea. 
I '11 try again by-and-by, and see if I have the gift. Per- 
haps it is acting, not writing, I 'm meant for. Nature 
must have a vent somehow. 

July. Went into the new house and began to settle. 
Father is happy ; Mother glad to be at rest ; Anna is in 
bliss with her gentle John ; and May busy over her pic- 
tures. I have plans simmering, but must sweep and dust 
and wash my dish-pans a while longer till I see my way. 

Worked off my stage fever in writing a story, and felt 
better ; also a moral tale, and got twenty- five dollars, 

ioo Louisa May Alcott. 

which pieced up our summer gowns and bonnets all 
round. The inside of my head can at least cover the 

August. Much company to see the new house. All 
seem to be glad that the wandering family is anchored at 
last. We won't move again for twenty years if I can help 
it. The old people need an abiding place ; and now 
that death and love have taken two of us away, I can, I 
hope, soon manage to care for the remaining four. 

The weeklies will all take stories ; and I can simmer 
novels while I do my housework, so see my way to a little 
money, and perhaps more by-and-by if I ever make a hit. 

Probably owing to the excitement of grief for 
her sister's death, and sympathy in Anna's happy 
betrothal, Louisa became in October more discour- 
aged than she had ever been, and went to Boston 
in search of work. As she walked over the mill- 
dam the running stream brought the thought of 
the River of Death, which would end all troubles. 
It was but a momentary impulse, and the brave 
young heart rallied to the thought, ''There is work 
for me, and I '11 have it ! ' Her journal narrates 
how Mr. Parker helped her through this period of 
anxiety. She was all ready to go to Lancaster, 
to hard drudgery at sewing, when her old place as 
governess was again offered to her, and her own 
support was assured. 

October. Went to Boston on my usual hunt for em- 
ployment, as I am not needed at home and seem to be 
the only bread-winner just now. 


My fit of despair was soon over, for it seemed so 
cowardly to run away before the battle was over I 

Authorship. 101 

couldn't do it. So I said firmly, "There is work for 
me, and I '11 have it," and went home resolved to take 
Fate by the throat and shake a living out of her. 

Sunday Mr. Parker preached a sermon on " Laborious 
Young Women." Just what I needed; for it said: 
" Trust your fellow-beings, and let them help you. 
Don't be too proud to ask, and accept the humblest 
work till you can find the task you want." 

" I will," said I, and went to Mr. P.'s. He was out ; 
but I told Mrs. P. my wants, and she kindly said Theo- 
dore and Hannah would be sure to have something for 
me. As I went home I met Mrs. L., who had not 
wanted me, as Alice went to school. She asked if I was 
engaged, and said A. did not do well, and she thought 
perhaps they would like me back. I was rejoiced, and 
went home feeling that the tide had begun to turn. 
Next day came Miss H. S. to offer me a place at the 
Girls' Reform School at Lancaster, to sew ten hours 
a day, make and mend. I said I 'd go, as I could do 
anything with a needle ; but added, if Mrs. L. wants me 
I 'd rather do that. 

" Of course you had. Take it if it comes, and if not, 
try my work." I promised and waited. That eve, when 
my bag was packed and all was ready for Lancaster, 
came a note from Mrs. L. offering the old salary and the 
old place. I sang for joy, and next day early posted off 
to Miss S. She was glad and shook hands, saying, " It 
was a test, my dear, and you stood it. When I told 
Mr. P. that you would go, he said, ' That is a true girl ; 
Louisa will succeed.' 

I was very proud and happy ; for these things are 
tests of character as well as courage, and I covet the 
respect of such true people as Mr. P. and Miss S. 

So away to my little girl with a bright heart ! for with 

102 Louisa May Alcott. 

tales, and sewing for Mary, which pays my board, there I 
am fixed for the winter and my cares over. Thank the 

She now found publishers eager for her stories, 
and went on writing for them. She was encour- 
aged by E. P. Whipple's praise of " Mark Field's 
Mistake," and by earning thirty dollars, most of 
which she sent home. 


Earned thirty dollars ; sent twenty home. Heard 
Curtis, Parker, Higginson, and Mrs. Dall lecture. See 
Booth's Hamlet, and my ideal done at last. 

My twenty-sixth birthday on the 29th. Some sweet 
letters from home, and a ring of A.'s and J.'s hair as a 
peace-offering. A quiet day, with many thoughts and 

The past year has brought us the first death and be- 
trothal, two events that change my life. I can see that 
these experiences have taken a deep hold, and changed 
or developed me. Lizzie helps me spiritually, and a 
little success makes me more self-reliant. Now that 
Mother is too tired to be wearied with my moods, I have 
to manage them alone, and am learning that work of 
head and hand is my salvation when disappointment or 
weariness burden and darken my soul. 

In my sorrow I think I instinctively came nearer to 
God, and found comfort in the knowledge that he was 
sure to help when nothing else could. 

A great grief has taught me more than any minister, 
and when feeling most alone I find refuge in the Almighty 
Friend. If this is experiencing religion I have done it ; 
but I think it is only the lesson one must learn as it 
comes, and I am glad to know it. 

Authorship. 103 

After my fit of despair I seem to be braver and more 
cheerful, and grub away with a good heart. Hope it 
will last, for I need all the courage and comfort I can get. 

I feel as if I could write better now, more truly of 
things I have felt and therefore know. I hope I shall 
yet do my great book, for that seems to be my work, 
and I am growing up to it. I even think of trying the 
"Atlantic." There 's ambition for you ! I 'm sure some 
of the stories are very flat. If Mr. L. takes the one Father 
carried to him, I shall think I can do something. 

December. Father started on his tour West full of 
hope. Dear man ! How happy he will be if people will 
only listen to and pay for his wisdom. 

May came to B. and stayed with me while she took 
drawing lessons. Christmas at home. Write an Indian 

January, 1859. Send a parcel home to Marmee 
and Nan. 

Mother very ill. Home to nurse her for a week. 
Wonder if I ought not to be a nurse, as I seem to have 
a gift for it. Lizzie, L. W., and Mother all say so ; and I 
like it. If I could n't write or act I 'd try it. May yet. 
$21 from L. ; $15 home. 

Some day I '11 do my best, and get well paid for it. 
[$3,000 for a short serial in 1 876. True prophet L. M. A .] 

Wrote a sequel to " Mark Field." Had a queer time 
over it, getting up at night to write it, being too full to 

March. "Mark' was a success, and much praised. 
So I found the divine afflatus did descend. Busy life 
teaching, writing, sewing, getting all I can from lectures, 
books, and good people. Life is my college. May I 
graduate well, and earn some honors ! 

104 Louisa May Alcott. 

April. May went home after a happy winter at the 
School of Design, where she did finely, and was pro- 
nounced full of promise. Mr. T. said good things of 
her, and we were very proud. No doubt now what she 
is to be, if we can only keep her along. 

I went home also, being done with A., who went out 
of town early. Won't teach any more if I can help it ; 
don't like it ; and if I can get writing enough can do 
much better. 

I have done more than I hoped. Supported myself, 
helped May, and sent something home. Not borrowed 
a penny, and had only five dollars given me. So my 
third campaign ends well. 

May. Took care of L. W., who was ill. Walked from 
C. to B. one day, twenty miles, in five hours, and went 
to a party in the evening. Not very tired. Well done 
for a vegetable production ! 

June. Took two children to board and teach. A 
busy month, as Anna was in B. 

September. - - Great State Encampment here. Town 
full of soldiers, with military fuss and feathers. I like a 
camp, and long for a war, to see how it all seems. I 
can't fight, but I can nurse. 

[Prophetic again. L. M. A.] 

October, 1859. May did a fine copy of Emerson's 
Endymion 1 for me. 

Mother sixty. God bless the dear, brave woman ! 

Good news of Parker in Florence, my beloved 
minister and friend. To him and R. W. E. I owe 
much of my education. May I be a worthy pupil of 
such men ! 

November. Hurrah ! My story was accepted ; and 
Lowell asked if it was not a translation from the German, 

1 A fine bas-relief owned by Mr. Emerson. 

Authorship. 105 

it was so unlike most tales. I felt much set up, and my 
fifty dollars will be very happy money. People seem to 
think it a great thing to get into the " Atlantic ; ' but 
I Ve not been pegging away all these years in vain, and 
may yet have books and publishers and a fortune of my 
own. Success has gone to my head, and I wander a 
little. Twenty-seven years old, and very happy. 

The Harper's Ferry tragedy makes this a memorable 
month. Glad I have lived to see the Antislavery move- 
ment and this last heroic act in it. Wish I could do my 
part in it. 

December, 1859. The execution of Saint John the Just 
took place on the second. A meeting at the hall, and 
all Concord was there. Emerson, Thoreau, Father, and 
Sanborn spoke, and all were full of reverence and admi- 
ration for the martyr. 

I made some verses on it, and sent them to the 
" Liberator." 

A sickness of Mrs. Alcott through which she 
nursed her makes Louisa question whether nursing 
is not her true vocation. She had an opportunity 
to try it later. 

Much interest attaches to this period of Louisa's 
work, when she dashed off sensational stories as 
fast as they were wanted, from the account which 
she has given of it in " Little Women." She has 
concentrated into one short period there the w r ork 
and the feelings of a much longer time. She cer- 
tainly did let her fancy run riot in these tales, and 
they were as sensational as the penny papers de- 
sired. She had a passion for wild, adventurous 
life, and even for lurid passion and melodramatic 
action, which she could indulge to the utmost in 

io6 Louisa May Alcott. 

these stories. Louisa was always a creature of 
moods ; and it was a great relief to work off cer- 
tain feelings by the safe vent of imaginary persons 
and scenes in a story. She had no one to guide 
or criticise her ; and the fact that these gambols of 
fancy brought the much-needed money, and were, 
as she truly called them, " pot boilers," certainly 
did not discourage her from indulging in them. 
She is probably right in calling most of them " trash 
and rubbish," for she was yet an unformed girl, 
and had not studied herself or life very deeply; but 
her own severe condemnation of them in " Little 
Women" might give a false idea. The stories are 
never coarse or immoral. They give a lurid, un- 
natural picture of life, but sin is not made capti- 
vating or immorality attractive. There is often a 
severe moral enforced. They did not give poison 
to her readers, only over-seasoned unnatural food, 
which might destroy the relish for wholesome men- 
tal nourishment. 

We are inclined to ask, What did Louisa herself 
get out of this wild, Walpurgis-Night ride among 
ghosts and goblins, letting her fancy run riot, and 
indulging every mood as it rose? Did it not give 
her the dash and freedom in writing which we find 
in all her books, a command of language, and a 
recognition of the glow and force of life? She 
finds life no mere commonplace drudgery, but 
full of great possibilities. Did it not also give 
her an interest in all the wild fancies and dreams 
of girls, all the longing for adventure of boys, 
and make her hopeful even of the veriest young 
scamps that they would work off the turbulent 

Authorship. 107 

energies of youth safely if activities were wisely 
provided for them? 

No writer for children ever was so fully recog- 
nized as understanding them. They never felt 
that she stood on a pinnacle of wisdom to cen- 
sure them, but came right down into their midst 
to work and play with them, and at the same time 
to show them the path out of the tangled thickets, 
and to help them to see light in their gloomiest 

Yet she unquestionably recognized that she was 
not doing the best work of which she was capable ; 
and she looked forward still to the books she was 
to write, as well as the fortune she was to make. 
She did not like any reference to these sensational 
stories in after life, although she sometimes re-used 
plots or incidents in them; and she was very un- 
willing to have them republished. 

Boston Bulletin, Ninth Issue. 

SUNDAY EVE, November, 1858. 

MY BLESSED NAX, Having finished my story, I can 
refresh my soul by a scribble to you, though I have noth- 
ing to tell of much interest. 

Mrs. L. is to pay me my " celery " each month, as she 
likes to settle all bills in that way ; so yesterday she put 
$20.85 mto mv willing hands, and gave me Satur- 
day P. M, for a holiday. This unexpected $20, with the 
$10 for my story (if I get it) and $5 for sewing, will 
give me the immense sum of $35. I shall get a second- 
hand carpet for the little parlor, a bonnet for you, and 
some shoes and stockings for myself, as three times round 
the Common in cold weather conduces to chilblains, 

loS Louisa May Alcott. 

owing to stockings with a profusion of toe, but no heel, 
and shoes with plenty of heel, but a paucity of toe. The 
prejudices of society demand that my feet be covered in 
the houses of the rich and great ; so I shall hose and shoe 
myself, and if any of my fortune is left, will invest it in the 
Alcott Sinking Fund, the Micawber R. R., and the Skim- 
pole three per cents. 

Tell me how much carpet you need, and T. S. will find 
me a good one. In December I shall have another $20 ; 
so let me know what is wanting, and don't live on " five 
pounds of rice and a couple of quarts of split peas " all 
winter, I beg. 

How did you like " Mark Field's Mistake "? I don't 
know whether it is good or bad ; but it will keep the pot 
boiling, and I ask no more. I wanted to go and see if 
" Hope's Treasures " was accepted, but was afeared. M. 
and H. both appeared ; but one fell asleep, and the other 
forgot to remember ; so I still wait like Patience on a 
hard chair, smiling at an inkstand. Miss K. asked me to 
go to see Booth for the last time on Saturday. Upon 
that ravishing thought I brooded all the week very mer- 
rily, and I danced, sang, and clashed my cymbals daily. 
Saturday A. M. Miss K. sent word she could n't go, and 
from my pinnacle of joy I was precipitated into an abyss 
of woe. While in said abyss Mrs. L. put the $20 into 
my hands. That was a moment of awful trial. Every 
one of those dollars cried aloud, " What, ho ! Come 
hither, and be happy ! ' But eight cold feet on a straw 
carpet marched to and fro so pathetically that I locked 
up the tempting fiend, and fell to sewing, as a Saturday 
treat ! 

But, lo ! virtue was rewarded. Mrs. H. came flying 
in, and took me to the Museum to see " Gold ' and 
" Lend Me Five Shillings." Warren, in an orange tie, red 

Authorship. 109 

coat, white satin vest, and scarlet ribbons on his ankles, 
was the funniest creature you ever saw ; and I laughed till 
I cried, which was better for me than the melancholy 
Dane, I dare say. 

I 'm disgusted with this letter ; for I .always begin try- 
ing to be proper and neat ; but my pen will not keep in 
order, and ink has a tendency to splash when used copi- 
ously and with rapidity. I have to be so moral and so 
dignified nowadays that the jocosity of my nature will gush 
out when it gets a chance, and the consequences are, as 
you see, rubbish. But you like it ; so let 's be merry 
while we may, for to-morrow is Monday, and the weekly 
grind begins again. 



Tune. " Wait for the Wagon." 

THE world lies fair about us, and a friendly sky above ; 
Our lives are full of sunshine, our homes are full of love ; 
Few cares or sorrows sadden the beauty of our day ; 
We gather simple pleasures like daisies by the way. 

Chorus. Oh ! sing with cheery voices, 

Like robins on the tree ; 
For little lads and lasses 
As blithe of heart should be. 

The village is our fairyland : its good men are our kings ; 
And wandering through its by-ways our busy minds find wings. 
The school-room is our garden, and we the flowers there, 
And kind hands tend and water us that we may blossom fair. 

Chorus. Oh ! dance in airy circles, 
Like fairies on the lee ; 
For little lads and lasses 
As light of foot should be. 

There 's the Shepherd of the sheepfold ; the Father of the vines ; 
.The Hermit of blue Walden ; the Poet of the pines ; 
And a Friend who comes among us, with counsels wise and mild 
With snow upon his forehead, yet at heart a very child. 

Chorus. Oh ! smile as smiles the river, 

Slow rippling to the sea ; 
For little lads and lasses 
As full of peace should be. 

The Year of Good Luck. 1 1 1 

There 's not a cloud in heaven but drops its silent dew ; 
No violet in the meadow but blesses with its blue ; 
No happy child in Concord who may not do its part 
To make the great world better by innocence of heart. 

Chortis. Oh ! blossom in the sunshine 

Beneath the village tree ; 
For little lads and lasses 
Are the fairest flowers we see. 

A FTER such long and hard struggles, it is 
\. pleasant to find the diary for 1860 headed 
" A Year of Good Luck." The appointment of 
Mr. Alcott as Superintendent of Schools in Con- 
cord was a great happiness to the family. It was 
a recognition of his character and ability, and gave 
him congenial occupation and some small pecuniary 

Louisa was writing for the " Atlantic," and re- 
ceiving better pay for her work ; Anna was happy ; 
and May absorbed in her art. 

In the summer Miss Alcott had an experience in 
caring for a young friend during a temporary fit of 
insanity, which she has partially reproduced in the 
touching picture of Helen in the story of " Work." 
It is a powerful lesson ; but it is almost cruelly en- 
forced, and is an artistic blemish in the book. While 
the great problem of heredity should be studied and 
its lessons enforced, it is yet a mystery, whose laws 
are not understood ; and it is not wise to paint its 
possible effects in the lurid light of excited imagi- 
nation, which may too often bring about the very 
evils which a wise and temperate caution might 
prevent. For the physician and teacher such in- 
vestigations are important ; but they are dangerous 
to the young and sensitive. 

112 Louisa May Alcott. 

The following unusually long letter gives a pleas- 
ing picture of the family life at this time : 

To Mrs. Bond. 

APPLE SLUMP, Sept. 17, 1860. 

DEAR AUNTIE, I consider this a practical illustration 
of one of Mother's naughty amended sayings, " Cast your 
bread upon the waters, and after many days it will return 
buttered ; " and this " rule of three " don't " puzzle me," 
as the other did ; for my venerable raiment went away 
with one if not two feet in the grave, and came back in 
the guise of three stout angels, having been resurrection- 
ized by the spirit who lives on the other side of a Charles 
River Jordan. Thank you very much, and be sure the 
dreams I dream in them will be pleasant ones ; for, 
whether you sewed them or not, I know they bring some 
of the Auntie influence in their strength, softness, and 
warmth ; and, though a Vandal, I think any prayers I may 
say in them will be the better for the affectionate recol- 
lections that will clothe me with the putting on of these 
friendly gowns, while my belief in both heavenly and 
earthly providences will be amazingly strengthened by 
the knowledge of some lives here, whose beauty renders 
it impossible to doubt the existence of the life hereafter. 

We were very glad to hear that the Papa was better ; 
for when paternal " Pvichards " ain't " themselves," every- 
body knows the anxious state of the domestic realms. 

I hope Georgie (last name disremembered) has re- 
covered from the anguish of discontented teeth and berry- 
seeds, and that "the Mama" was as much benefited by 
the trip as the other parties were, barring the horse 

This amiable town is convulsed just now with a gym- 
nastic fever, which shows itself with great violence in all 

The Year of Good Luck. 113 

the schools, and young societies generally. Dr. Lewis 
has " inoculated us for the disease," and it has " taken 
finely ; ' for every one has become a perambulating 
windmill, with all its four sails going as if a wind had set 
in ; and the most virulent cases present the phenomena 
of black eyes and excoriation of the knobby parts of the 
frame, to say nothing of sprains and breakage of vessels 
looming in the future. 

The City Fathers approve of it ; and the city sons 
and daughters intend to show that Concord has as much 
muscle as brain, and be ready for another Concord fight, 
if Louis Napoleon sees fit to covet this famous land of 
Emerson, Hawthorne, Thoreau, Alcott, & Co. Abby and 
I are among the pioneers ; and the delicate vegetable 
productions clash their cymbals in private, when the beef- 
eating young ladies faint away and become superfluous 
dumb belles. 

Saturday we had J. G. Whittier, Charlotte Cushman, 
Miss Stebbins the sculptress, and Mr. Stuart, conductor 
of the underground railroad of this charming free coun- 
try. So you see our humble place of abode is perking 
up ; and when the " great authoress and artist " are fairly 
out of the shell, we shall be an honor to our country and 
terror to the foe, - - provided good fortune don't addle or 
bad fortune smash us. 

Father continues to stir up the schools like a mild 
pudding-stick, Mother to sing Hebron among her pots 
and pans, Anna and the Prince Consort to bill and coo 
in the little dove-cot, Oranthy Bluggage to launch chips 
on the Atlantic and make a gigantic blot of herself in 
working the vessel, Abby to teach the fine arts and play 
propriety for the family, and the old house to put its best 
foot foremost and hoot at the idea of ever returning to 
the chaos from which it came. 


114 Louisa May Alcott. 

This is a condensed history of " the pathetic family," 
which is also a " happy family," owing to the prevalence 
of friends and lots of kindness in the original packages, 
" which are always arriving " when the " Widow Cruise's 
oil-bottle " begins to give out. 

You know I never could do anything in a neat and 
proper manner ; so you will receive this topsy-turvy note 
as you do its writer, and with love to all from all, believe 
her, dear auntie, 

Ever lovingly yours, 

L. M. A. 

This characteristic letter not only shows Louisa's 
affectionate feelings and gives a picture of her life, 
but indicates that " The Pathetic Family," which 
was the foundation of " Little Women," was already 
shaping itself in her mind. 

Mr. Alcott's career as Superintendent of Schools 
was a gratifying success, and is still remembered 
by friends of education in the town. The year 
closed with a school festival, for which Louisa 
wrote a poem, and in which she took hearty 

In 1 86 1 war was declared with the South. The 
Alcotts were all alive with patriotic enthusiasm, 
and Louisa took an active part in fitting off the 
boys for the army. But she also found time for 
much reading. Mr. Alcott, in his sonnet, uses the 
expression about Louisa 

" Hast with grave studies vexed a lively brain." 

He may possibly have referred to this period, 
though she could never properly be called a student. 

The Year of Good Luck. 115 

She was a rapid, intelligent reader, and her taste 
was severe and keen. From her childhood she 
had browsed in her father's library, full of the 
works of ancient philosophers and quaint English 
poets, and had imbibed from them great thoughts 
and noble sentiments ; but her reading, like all her 
education, was immethodical. Occasionally she 
would lay out courses of reading, which she pur- 
sued for a time ; but in general she followed the 
cravings of a healthy appetite for knowledge, read- 
ing what came in her way. Later in life she often 
read light literature in abundance, to drown the 
sensations of pain, and to pass away the hours of 

She read French easily, and learned to speak it 
when abroad ; she also studied German, but did 
not acquire equal facility in that tongue. Of 
ancient languages she had no knowledge. His- 
tory could not fail to interest such a student of 
life, and she loved Nature too well not to enjoy 
the revelations of science when brought to her no- 
tice ; but she had never time to give to a thorough 
study of either. 

In her journal at this time she speaks of her 
religious feelings, which the experiences of grief 
and despair and reviving hope had deepened. 
Louisa Alcott's was a truly religious soul ; she 
always lived in the consciousness of a Higher 
Power sustaining and blessing her, whose presence 
was revealed to her through Nature, through the 
inspired words of great thinkers and the deep ex- 
periences of her own heart. She never held her 
life as an isolated possession which she was free to 

116 Louisa May Alcott. 

use for her own enjoyment or glory. Her father 
truly called her " Duty's faithful child," and her 
life was consecrated to the duty she recognized as 
specially hers. But for outward forms and rites of 
religion she cared little ; her home was sacred to her, 
and she found her best life there. She loved Theo- 
dore Parker, and found great strength and help 
from his preaching, and afterward liked to listen to 
Dr. Bartol ; but she never joined any church. The 
Bible was not her favorite reading, though her 
father had read it much to her in her childhood, 
with his own peculiar charm of interpretation. 
Pilgrim's Progress was one of the few religious 
books which became dear to her in the same 

Her sister Anna was married in May ; this was 
of course a great event in the family. While fully 
rejoicing in her sister's happiness, Louisa felt her 
loss as a constant companion and confidant. The 
journal gives a sufficient description of the event. 
Her strong affection for her brother-in-law appears 
in " Little" Women " and in "Jo's Boys." About 
this time her farce was brought out at the Howard 

The story-writing continued, as it helped to pay 
the expenses of the family ; but the continuous, 
hurried work had begun to affect her health, and 
she occasionally suffered from illness. 

In the summer of 1861 Miss Alcott began to 
write her first novel, entitled " Moods ; " this proved 
to be the least successful of her books, and yet like 
many an unfortunate child, it was the dearest to 
the mother's heart. It was not written for money, 

The Year of Good Luck. 117 

but for its own sake, and she was possessed by the 
plot and the characters. Warwick represented her 
ideal of a hero, while her sister preferred the type 
of the amiable Moor ; yet there is far less of her 
outward self revealed in this than in her other 
stories. It is full of her thoughts and fancies, but 
not of her life. The wilful, moody, charming Syl- 
via does not affect us like the stormy Jo, who is 
a real presence to us, and whom we take to our 
hearts in spite of her faults. The men are such as 
she found in books, but had never known herself, 
and, carefully as she has drawn them, have not 
the individuality of Laurie and Professor Bhaer. 
The action takes place in an unreal world; and 
though there are many pretty scenes, they have 
not the real flavor of New England life. The 
principal incident, of a young girl going up the 
river on a picnic-voyage for some days with her 
brother and two other young men, was so con- 
trary to common ideas of decorum, that the motive 
hardly seems sufficient for the staid sister's con- 
sent ; but in the simple, innocent life which the 
Alcotts lived in Concord such scruples were little 

Miss Alcott did not lay stress upon the marriage 
question as the principal feature of the book; she 
cared more to describe the wilful moods of a 
young girl, full of good feelings, and longing for a 
rich and noble life, but not established in convic- 
tions and principles. She meant to represent 
much of her own nature in Sylvia, for she was 
always a creature of moods, which her family 
learned to recognize and respect. But how 

iiS Louisa May Alcott. 

unlike was the discipline of family work and 
love, which saved Louisa from fatal caprices and 
fitful gusts of fancy called passion, to the lot of 
the wealthy and admired Sylvia. Miss Alcott 
says that the incidents of the marriage, although 
not drawn from life, were so close to an actual 
case that the wife asked her how she had known 
her secret; but such realism is a poor justi- 
fication in art. It is that which becomes true to 
the imagination and heart through its vivid per- 
sonation of character which is accepted, not the 
bare facts. The great question of the transcen- 
dental period was truth to the inward life instead 
of the outward law. But in " Moods ' the mar- 
riage question is not stated strongly; it does not 
reach down to this central principle. It is only in 
tragedy that such a double relation could be en- 
dured, when the situation is compelled by fate, 
the fate of character and overpowering circum- 
stances, and when there is no happy solution 
possible. But Sylvia's position is made only by 
her own weakness, and the love which stands in 
opposition to outward duty has no right of exist- 
ence. If her love for Warwick could be overcome, 
there was no question of her duty ; and when she 
accepts Faith's criticism of him, it is clear that it is 
a much lighter spell than love which has fascinated 
her. We do not accept the catastrophe which 
sacrifices a splendid life to make a comfortable 
solution of the practical difficulty, and to allow 
Sylvia to accept a happy home without a thorough 
regeneration of heart and mind. But these were 
the natural mistakes of youth and inexperience ; 

The Year of Good Luck. 119 

Louisa had known but little of such struggles. 
Love and marriage were rather uninteresting 
themes to her, and she had not yet found her 
true power. 

Still the book has great literary merit. It is well 
written, in a more finished style than any of her 
other work, except "Modern Mephistopheles," and 
the dialogue is vigorous and sprightly. In spite of 
her careful revision and pruning, there is something 
left of youthful gush in it, and this perhaps touched 
the heart of young girls, who found in Sylvia's 
troubles with herself a reflection of their own. 

The "golden wedding" scenes have some of her 
usual freedom and vivacity. She is at home with 
a troop of mothers and babies and noisy boys. 
But the "golden wedding" was a new importation 
from Germany, and not at home in the New Eng- 
land farmhouse. Why might it not have been a 
true wedding or a harvest feast? 

Louisa never lost her interest in this early work, 
though it was the most unlucky of books, and sub- 
jected to severe handling. It was sent to and fro 
from publisher to author, each one suggesting some 
change. Redpath sent it back as being too long. 
Ticknor found it very interesting, but could not 
use it then. Loring liked it, but wanted it shorter. 
She condensed and altered until her author's spirit 
rebelled, and she declared she would change it no 

After her other books had made her famous, 
" Moods >: was again brought forward and repub- 
lished as it was originally written. It met with 
warmer welcome than before, and a cheap edition 

I2O Louisa May Alcott. 

was published in England to supply the popular 

Miss Alcott learned the first painful lesson of 
over-work on this book. She was possessed by it, 
and for three weeks labored so constantly that she 
felt the physical effects keenly. Fortunately new 
household tasks (for the daughters of John Brown 
came to board with them), and the enthusiasm of 
the time, changed the current of her thoughts. 


February, 1860. Mr. won't have " M. L.," as 

it is antislavery, and the dear South must not be offended. 
Got a carpet with my $50, and wild Louisa's head kept 
the feet of the family warm. 

March. -- Wrote "A Modern Cinderella," with Nan. 
for the heroine and John for the hero. 

Made my first ball dress for May, and she was the 
finest girl at the party. My tall, blond, graceful girl ! I 
was proud of her. 

Wrote a song for the school festival, and heard it sung 
by four hundred happy children. Father got up the 
affair, and such a pretty affair was never seen in Concord 
before. He said, " We spend much on our cattle and 
flower shows ; let us each spring have a show of our 
children, and begrudge nothing for their culture." All 
liked it but the old fogies who want things as they were 
in the ark. 

April. Made two riding habits, and May and I had 
some fine rides. Both needed exercise, and this was 
good for us. So one of our dreams came true, and we 
really did " dash away on horseback." 

Sanborn was nearly kidnapped for being a friend of 
John Brown ; but his sister and A. W. rescued him when 

The Year of Good Luck. 121 

he was handcuffed, and the scamps drove off. Great 
ferment in town. A meeting and general flurry. 

Had a funny lover who met me in the cars, and said 
he lost his heart at once. Handsome man of forty. A 
Southerner, and very demonstrative and gushing, called 
and wished to pay his addresses ; and being told I did n't 
wish to see him, retired, to write letters and haunt the 
road with his hat off, while the girls laughed and had 
great fun over Jo's lover. He went at last, and peace 
reigned. My adorers are all queer. 

Sent "Cinderella" to the "Atlantic," and it was ac- 
cepted. Began "By the River," and thought that this 
was certainly to be a lucky year ; for after ten years hard 
climbing I had reached a good perch on the ladder, and 
could look more hopefully into the future, while my paper 
boats sailed gaily over the Atlantic. 

May. Meg's wedding. 

My farce was acted, and I went to see it. Not very 
well done ; but I sat in a box, and the good Doctor 
handed up a bouquet to the author, and made as much 
as he could of a small affair. 

Saw Anna's honeymoon home at Chelsea, a little cot- 
tage in a blooming apple-orchard. Pretty place, simple 
and sweet. God bless it ! 

The dear girl was married on the 23d, the same day 
as Mother's wedding. A lovely day ; the house full of 
sunshine, flowers, friends, and happiness. Uncle S. J. 
May married them, with no fuss, but much love ; and we 
all stood round her. She in her silver-gray silk, with 
lilies of the valley (John's flower) in her bosom and 
hair. We in gray thin stuff and roses, - - sackcloth, I 
called it, and ashes of roses ; for I mourn the loss of 
my Nan, and am not comforted. We have had a little 
feast, sent by good Mrs. Judge Shaw ; then the old 

122 Louisa May Alcott. 

folks danced round the bridal pair on the lawn in the 
German fashion, making a pretty picture to remember, 
under our Revolutionary elm. 

Then, with tears and kisses, our dear girl, in her little 
white bonnet, went happily away with her good John ; 
and we ended our first wedding. Mr. Emerson kissed 
her ; and I thought that honor would make even matri- 
mony endurable, for he is the god of my idolatry, and 
has been for years. 

June. To Boston to the memorial meeting for Mr. 
Parker, which was very beautiful, and proved how much 
he was beloved. Music Hall was full of flowers and sun- 
shine, and hundreds of faces, both sad and proud, as the 
various speakers told the life of love and labor which 
makes Theodore Parker's memory so rich a legacy to 
Boston. I was very glad to have known so good a man, 
and been called " friend " by him. 

Saw Nan in her nest, where she and her mate live 
like a pair of turtle doves. Very sweet and pretty, but 
I 'd rather be a free spinster and paddle my own canoe. 

August. " Moods." Genius burned so fiercely that 
for four weeks I wrote all day and planned nearly all 
night, being quite possessed by my work. I was per- 
fectly happy, and seemed to have no wants. Finished 
the book, or a rough draught of it, and put it away to 
settle. Mr. Emerson offered to read it when Mother 
told him it was "Moods' and had one of his sayings 
for motto. 

Daresay nothing will ever come of it ; but it had to be 
done, and I 'm the richer for a new experience. 

September. Received $75 of Ticknor for "Cinder- 
ella," and feel very rich. Emerson praised it, and people 
wrote to me about it and patted me on the head. Paid 
bills, and began to simmer another. 

The Year of Good Luck. 123 

October. I went to B. and saw the Prince of Wales 
trot over the Common with his train at a review. A 
yellow-haired laddie very like his mother. Fanny W. 
and I nodded and waved as he passed, and he openly 
winked his boyish eye at us ; for Fanny, with her yellow 
curls and wild waving, looked rather rowdy, and the poor 
little prince wanted some fun. We laughed, and thought 
that we had been more distinguished by the saucy wink 
than by a stately bow. Boys are always jolly, --even 

Read Richter, and enjoyed him very much. 

Mother went to see Uncle S. J. May, and I was house- 
keeper. Gave my mind to it so energetically that I 
dreamed dip-toast, talked apple-sauce, thought pies, and 
wept drop-cakes. Read my book to Nan, who came up 
to cheer me in my struggles ; and she laughed and cried 
over it and said it was " good." So I felt encouraged, 
and will touch it up when duty no longer orders me to 
make a burnt- offering of myself. 

November. Father sixty-one ; L. aged twenty-eight. 
Our birthday. Gave Father a ream of paper, and he gave 
me Emerson's picture ; so both were happy. 

Wrote little, being busy with visitors. The John Brown 
Association asked me for a poem, which I wrote. 

Kind Miss R. sent May $30 for lessons, so she went to 
B. to take some of Johnstone. She is one of the for- 
tunate ones, and gets what she wants easily. I have to 
grub for my help, or go without it. Good for me, doubt- 
less, or it would n't be so ; so cheer up, Louisa, and grind 
away ! 

December. More luck for May. She wanted to go 
to Syracuse and teach, and Dr. W. sends for her, thanks to 
Uncle S. J. May. I sew like a steam-engine for a week, 
and get her ready. On the iyth go to B. and see our 

124 Louisa May Alcott. 

youngest start on her first little flight alone into the world, 
full of hope and courage. May all go well with her ! 

Mr. Emerson invited me to his class when they meet 
to talk on Genius ; a great honor, as all the learned 
ladies go. 

Sent " Debby's Debit " to the " Atlantic," and they 
took it. Asked to the John Brown meeting, but had no 
"good gown," so didn't go; but my "pome" did, and 
came out in the paper. Not good. I 'm a better patriot 
than poet, and could n't say what I felt. 

A quiet Christmas ; no presents but apples and flowers. 
No merry-making ; for Nan and May were gone, and 
Betty under the snow. But we are used to hard times, 
and, as Mother says, " while there is a famine in Kansas 
we mustn't ask for sugar- plums." 

All the philosophy in our house is not in the study ; 
a good deal is in the kitchen, where a fine old lady 
thinks high thoughts and does kind deeds while she 
cooks and scrubs. 

January, 1861. Twenty-eight; received thirteen 
New Year's gifts. A most uncommon fit of generosity 
seemed to seize people on my behalf, and I was blessed 
with all manner of nice things, from a gold and ivory 
pen to a mince-pie and a bonnet. 

Wrote on a new book " Success " [" Work "] till 
Mother fell ill, when I corked up my inkstand and turned 
nurse. The dear woman was very ill, but rose up like 
a phoenix from her ashes after what she gayly called 
" the irrepressible conflict between sickness and the May 

Father had four talks at Emerson's ; good people 
came, and he enjoyed them much ; made $30. R. W. E. 
probably put in $20. He has a sweet way of bestowing 
gifts on the table under a book or behind a candle-stick, 

The Year of Good Luck. 125 

when he thinks Father wants a little money, and no one 
will help him earn. A true friend is this tender and 
illustrious man. 

Wrote a tale and put it away, to be sent when 
" Debby ' comes out. " F. T." appeared, and I got a 
dress, having mended my six-year old silk till it is more 
patch and tear than gown. Made the claret merino my- 
self, and enjoyed it, as I do anything bought with my 
" head-money." 

February. Another turn at " Moods," which I re- 
modelled. From the 2cl to the 25th I sat writing, with 
a run at dusk ; could not sleep, and for three days was so 
full of it I could not stop to get up. Mother made me 
a green silk cap with a red bow, to match the old green 
and red party wrap, which I wore as a " glory cloak." 
Thus arrayed I sat in groves of manuscripts, " living for 
immortality," as May said. Mother wandered in and out 
with cordial cups of tea, worried because I could n't eat. 
Father thought it fine, and brought his reddest apples 
and hardest cider for my Pegasus to feed upon. All sorts 
of fun was going on ; but I did n't care if the world re- 
turned to chaos if I and my inkstand only "lit" in the 
same place. 

It was very pleasant and queer while it lasted ; but 
after three weeks of it I found that my mind was too 
rampant for my body, as my head was dizzy, legs shaky, 
and no sleep would come. So I dropped the pen, and 
took long walks, cold baths, and had Nan up to frolic 
with me. Read all I had done to my family ; and Father 
said : " Emerson must see this. Where did you get your 
metaphysics?' Mother pronounced it wonderful, and 
Anna laughed and cried, as she always does, over my 
works, saying, " My dear, I 'm proud of you." 

So I had a good time, even if it never comes to any- 

126 Louisa May Alcott. 

thing ; for it was worth something to have my three 
dearest sit up till midnight listening with wide-open 
eyes to Lu's first novel. 

I planned it some time ago, and have had it in my 
mind ever so long ; but now it begins to take shape. 

Father had his usual school festival, and Emerson asked 
me to write a song, which I did. On the i6th the schools 
all met in the hall (four hundred), a pretty posy bed, 
with a border of proud parents and friends. Some of the 
fogies objected to the names Phillips and John Brown. 
But Emerson said : " Give it up ? No, no ; / will read 
it." Which he did, to my great contentment ; for when 
the great man of the town says " Do it," the thing is 
done. So the choir warbled, and the Alcotts were uplifted 
in their vain minds. 

Father was in glory, like a happy shepherd with a large 
flock of sportive lambs ; for all did something. Each 
school had its badge, one pink ribbons, one green 
shoulder-knots, and one wreaths of pop-corn on the 
curly pates. One school to whom Father had read Pil- 
grim's Progress told the story, one child after the other 
popping up to say his or her part ; and at the end a little 
tot walked forward, saying with a pretty air of wonder, 
" And behold it was all a dream." 

When all was over, and Father about to dismiss them, 
F. H., a tall, handsome lad came to him, and looking up 
confidingly to the benign old face, asked " our dear friend 
Mr. Alcott to accept of Pilgrim's Progress and George 
Herbert's Poems from the children of Concord, as a token 
of their love and respect." 

Father was much touched and surprised, and blushed 
and stammered like a boy, hugging the fine books while 
the children cheered till the roof rung. 

His report was much admired, and a thousand copies 

The Year of Good Luck. 127 

printed to supply the demand ; for it was a new thing to 
have a report, neither dry nor dull ; and teachers were 
glad of the hints given, making education a part of 
religion, not a mere bread-making grind for teacher and 
an irksome cram for children. 

April. War declared with the South, and our Con- 
cord company went to Washington. A busy time getting 
them ready, and a sad day seeing them off; for in a little 
town like this we all seem like one family in times like 
these. At the station the scene was very dramatic, as the 
brave boys went away perhaps never to come back again. 

I Ve often longed to see a war, and now I have my 
wish. I long to be a man ; but as I can't fight, I will 
content myself with working for those who can. 

Sewed a good deal getting May's summer things in 
order, as she sent for me to make and mend and buy and 
send her outfit. 

Stories simmered in my brain, demanding to be writ ; 
but I let them simmer, knowing that the longer the divine 
afflatus was bottled up the better it would be. 

John Brown's daughters came to board, and upset 
my plans of rest and writing when the report and the 
sewing were done. I had my fit of woe up garret on 
the fat rag-bag, and then put my papers away, and 
fell to work at housekeeping. I think disappointment 
must be good for me, I get so much of it ; and the 
constant thumping Fate gives me may be a mellowing 
process ; so I shall be a ripe and sweet old pippin be- 
fore I die. 

May. Spent our May-day working for our men, 
three hundred women all sewing together at the hall for 
two days. 

May will not return to S. after her vacation in July ; and 
being a lucky puss, just as she wants something to do, 

128 Louisa May Alcott. 

F. B. S. needs a drawing teacher in his school and offers 
her the place. 

Nan found that I was wearing all the old clothes she 
and May left ; so the two dear souls clubbed together 
and got me some new ones ; and the great parcel, with a 
loving letter, came to me as a beautiful surprise. 

Nan and John walked up from Cambridge for a day, 
and we all walked back. Took a sail to the forts, and 
saw our men on guard there. Felt very martial and 
Joan-of-Arc-y as I stood on the walls with the flag flying 
over me and cannon all about. 

June. Read a good deal ; grubbed in my garden, 
and made the old house pretty for May. Enjoyed 
Carlyle's French Revolution very much. His earthquaky 
style suits me. 

" Charles Auchester ' is charming, a sort of fairy 
tale for grown people. Dear old " Evelina," as a change, 
was pleasant. Emerson recommended Hodson's India, 
and I got it, and liked it ; also read Sir Thomas More's 
Life. I read Fielding's " Amelia," and thought it coarse 
and queer. The heroine having " her lovely nose smashed 
all to bits falling from a post shay ' was a new idea. 
What some one says of Richardson applies to Fielding, 
" The virtues of his heroes are the vices of decent 


July. Spent a month at the White Mountains with 
L. W., a lovely time, and it did me much good. 
Mountains are restful and uplifting to my mind. Lived 
in the woods, and revelled in brooks, birds, pines, and 

August. May came home very tired, but satisfied 
with her first attempt, which has been very successful in 
every way. She is quite a belle now, and much improved, 
a tall blond lass, full of grace and spirit. 


The Year of Good Luck. 129 

September. Ticknor sent $50. Wrote a story for C., 
as Plato needs new shirts, and Minerva a pair of boots, 
and Hebe a fall hat. 

October. All together on Marmee's birthday. Sew- 
ing and knitting for " our boys " all the time. It seems 
as if a few energetic women could carry on the war better 
than the men do it so far. 

A week with Nan in the dove-cot. As happy as 

November and December. Wrote, read, sewed, and 
wanted something to do. 

In 1862, at the suggestion of Miss Peabody, 
Miss Alcott opened a Kindergarten school; but 
it was not successful, and she took a final leave 
of the teacher's profession, and returned to her 
writing, which she found to be her true calling. 
She wrote much ; for " brain was lively, and 
work paid for readily." Besides the occasional 
stories in papers and magazines, her most im- 
portant labor was the preparation of the story 
called "Work," or, as she originally named it, 
" Success." This story however was not pub- 
lished until ten years later. Here she took the 
road that was later to lead to fame and fortune, by 
writing from her own experience of life. Christie 
is Louisa herself under very thin disguise ; and 
all her own experiences, as servant, governess, 
companion, seamstress, and actress are brought 
in to give vividness to the picture ; while many 
other persons may be recognized as models for 
her skilful portraiture. The book has always been 
deservedly popular. 

130 Louisa May Alcott. 

January, 1862. E. P. Peabody wanted me to open 
a Kindergarten, and Mr. Barnard gave a room at the 
Warren Street Chapel. Don't like to teach, but take 
what comes ; so when Mr. F. offered $40 to fit up with, 
twelve pupils, and his patronage, I began. 

Saw many great people, and found them no bigger than 
the rest of the world, often not half so good as some 
humble soul who made no noise. I learned a good deal 
in my way, and am not half so much impressed by society 
as before I got a peep at it. Having known Emerson, 
Parker, Phillips, and that set of really great and good 
men and women living for the world's work and service 
of God, the mere show people seem rather small and 
silly, though they shine well, and feel that they are 

February. Visited about, as my school did not bring 
enough to pay board and the assistant I was made to 
have, though I did n't want her. 

Went to lectures ; saw Booth at the Goulds', a hand- 
some, shy man, glooming in a corner. 

Very tired of this wandering life and distasteful work ; 
but kept my word and tugged on. 

Hate to visit people who only ask me to help amuse 
others, and often longed for a crust in a garret with free- 
dom and a pen. I never knew before what insolent 
things a hostess can do, nor what false positions poverty 
can push one into. 

April. - - Went to and from C. every day that I might 
be at home. Forty miles a day is dull work ; but I have 
my dear people at night, and am not a beggar. 

Wrote " King of Clubs," $30. The school having 
no real foundation (as the people who sent did n't care 
for Kindergartens, and Miss P. wanted me to take pupils 
for nothing, to try the new system), I gave it up, as I 

77^6' Year of Good Luck. 131 

could do much better at something else. May took my 
place for a month, that I might keep my part of the bar- 
gain ; and I cleaned house, and wrote a story which 
made more than all my months of teaching. They ended 
in a wasted winter and a debt of $40, to be paid if I 
sell my hair to do it. 

May. School finished for me, and I paid Miss N. 
by giving her all the furniture, and leaving her to do as 
she liked ; while I went back to my writing, which pays 
much better, though Mr. F. did say, " Stick to your teach- 
ing ; you can't write." Being wilful, I said, " I won't 
teach ; and I can write, and I '11 prove it." 

Saw Miss Rebecca Harding, author of " Margret 
Howth," which has made a stir, and is very good. A 
handsome, fresh, quiet woman, who says she never had 
any troubles, though she writes about woes. I told her 
I had had lots of troubles ; so I write jolly tales ; and we 
wondered why we each did so. 

June, Jufy, August. Wrote a tale for B., and he lost 
it, and would n't pay. 

Wrote two tales for L. I enjoy romancing to suit my- 
self ; and though my tales are silly, they are not bad ; 
and my sinners always have a good spot somewhere. I 
hope it is good drill for fancy and language, for I can do 
it fast ; and Mr. L. says my tales are so " dramatic, vivid, 
and full of plot, " they are just what he wants. 

September, October. Sewing Bees and Lint Picks for 
"our boys " kept us busy, and the prospect of the first 
grandchild rejoiced the hearts of the family. 

Wrote much ; for brain was lively, and work paid for 
readily. Rewrote the last story, and sent it to L., who 
wants more than I can send him. So, between blue 
flannel jackets for " our boys " and dainty slips for Louisa 
Caroline or John B., Jr., as the case may be, I reel off 

132 Louisa May Alcott. 

my " thrilling" tales, and mess up my work in a queer 
but interesting way. 

War news bad. Anxious faces, beating hearts, and 
busy minds. 

I like the stir in the air, and long for battle like a war- 
horse when he smells powder. The blood of the Mays 
is up ! 

After Anna 's Marriage. 


MY DEAR MADAM, The news of the town is as 
follows, and I present it in the usual journalesque 
style of correspondence. After the bridal train had 
departed, the mourners withdrew to their respective 
homes ; and the bereaved family solaced their woe by 
washing dishes for two hours and bolting the remains of 
the funeral baked meats. At four, having got settled 
down, we were all routed up by the appearance of a long 
procession of children filing down our lane, headed by 
the Misses H. and R. Father rushed into the cellar, and 
appeared with a large basket of apples, which went the 
rounds with much effect. The light infantry formed in a 
semi-circle, and was watered by the matron and maids. 
It was really a pretty sight, these seventy children loaded 
with wreaths and flowers, standing under the elm in the 
sunshine, singing in full chorus the song I wrote for them. 
It was a neat little compliment to the superintendent and 
his daughter, who was glad to find that her "pome " was 
a favorite among the " lads and lasses ' who sang it 
" with cheery voices, like robins on the tree." 

Father put the finishing stroke to the spectacle by 
going off at full speed, hoppity-skip, and all the babes 
followed in a whirl of rapture at the idea. He led them 
up and down and round and round till they were tired ; 

The Year of Good Luck. 133 

then they fell into order, and with a farewell song marched 
away, seventy of the happiest little ones I ever wish to 
see. We subsided, and fell into our beds with the new 
thought " Annie is married and gone " for a lullaby, which 
was not very effective in its results with all parties. 

Thursday we set our house in order, and at two the 
rush began. It had gone abroad that Mr. M. and Mrs. 
Captain Brown were to adorn the scene, so many people 
coolly came who were not invited, and who had no busi- 
ness here. People sewed and jabbered till Mrs. Brown, 
with Watson Brown's widow and baby came ; then a 
levee took place. The two pale women sat silent and 
serene through the clatter ; and the bright-eyed, handsome 
baby received the homage of the multitude like a little 
king, bearing the kisses and praises with the utmost dig- 
nity. He is named Frederick Watson Brown, after his 
murdered uncle and father, and is a fair, heroic-looking 
baby, with a fine head, and serious eyes that look about 
him as if saying, " I am a Brown ! Are these friends or 
enemies ? ' I wanted to cry once at the little scene the 
unconscious baby made. Some one caught and kissed 
him rudely ; he did n't cry, but looked troubled, and 
rolled his great eyes anxiously about for some familiar 
face to reassure him with its smile. His mother was not 
there ; but though many hands were stretched to him, he 
turned to Grandma Bridge, and putting out his little arms 
to her as if she was a refuge, laughed and crowed as 
he had not done before when she danced him on her 
knee. The old lady looked delighted ; and Freddy pat- 
ted the kind face, and cooed like a lawful descendant of 
that pair of ancient turtle doves. 

When he was safe back in the study, playing alone at 
his mother's feet, C. and I went and worshipped in our 
own way at the shrine of John Brown's grandson, kissing 

134 Louisa May Alcott. 

him as if he were a little saint, and feeling highly hon- 
ored when he sucked our fingers, or walked on us with 
his honest little red shoes, much the worse for wear. 

Well, the baby fascinated me so that I forgot a raging 
headache and forty gabbling women all in full clack. Mrs. 
Brown, Sen., is a tall, stout woman, plain, but with a 
strong, good face, and a natural dignity that showed she 
was something better than a " lady," though she did 
drink out of her saucer and used the plainest speech. 

The younger woman had such a patient, heart-broken 
face, it was a whole Harper's Ferry tragedy in a look. 
When we got your letter, Mother and I ran into the study 
to read it. Mother read aloud ; for there were only C., A., 
I, and Mrs. Brown, Jr., in the room. As she read the 
words that were a poem in their simplicity and happiness, 
the poor young widow sat with tears rolling down her 
face ; for I suppose it brought back her own wedding- 
day, not two years ago, and all the while she cried the 
baby laughed and crowed at her feet as if there was no 
trouble in the world. 

The preparations had been made for twenty at the ut- 
most ; so when forty souls with the usual complement of 
bodies appeared, we grew desperate, and our neat little 
supper turned out a regular a tea fight," A., C., B., and 
I rushed like comets to and fro trying to fill the multi- 
tude that would eat fast and drink like sponges. I filled 
a big plate with all I could lay hands on, and with two 
cups of tea, strong enough for a dozen, charged upon Mr. 
E. and Uncle S., telling them to eat, drink, and be merry, 
for a famine was at hand. They cuddled into a corner ; 
and then, feeling that my mission was accomplished, I let 
the hungry wait and the thirsty moan for tea, while I 
picked out and helped the regular Antislavery set. 

We got through it ; but it was an awful hour ; and 

The Year of Good Luck. 135 

Mother wandered in her mind, utterly lost in a grove of 
teapots ; while B. pervaded the neighborhood demanding 
hot water, and we girls sowed cake broadcast through the 

When the plates were empty and the teapots dry, peo- 
ple wiped their mouths and confessed at last that they 
had done. A conversation followed, in which Grandpa B. 
and E. P. P. held forth, and Uncle and Father mildly 
upset the world, and made a new one in which every one 
desired to take a place. Dr. B., Mr. B., T., etc., ap- 
peared, and the rattle continued till nine, when some 
Solomon suggested that the Alcotts must be tired, and 
every one departed but C. and S. We had a polka by 
Mother and Uncle, the lancers by C. and B., and an 
etude by S., after which scrabblings of feast appeared, 
and we "drained the dregs of every cup," all cakes and 
pies we gobbled up, etc. ; then peace fell upon us, and 
our remains were interred decently. 




WE sighing said, " Our Pan is dead ; 

His pipe hangs mute beside the river; 

Around it wistful sunbeams quiver, 
But Music's airy voice is fled. 
Spring mourns as for untimely frost; 

The bluebird chants a requiem; 

The willow-blossom waits for him ; 
The Genius of the wood is lost." 

Then from the flute, untouched by hands. 
There came a low, harmonious breath : 
" For such as he there is no death; 

His life the eternal life commands ; 

Above man's aims his nature rose. 
The wisdom of a just content 
Made one small spot a continent, 

And tuned to poetry life's prose. 

" Haunting the hills, the stream, the wild, 
Swallow and aster, lake and pine, 
To him grew human or divine, 

Fit mates for this large-hearted child. 

Such homage Nature ne'er forgets, 
And yearly on the coverlid 
'Neath which her darling lieth hid 

Will write his name in violets. 

" To him no vain regrets belong 

Whose soul, that finer instrument, 
Gave to the world no poor lament, 

But wood-notes ever sweet and strong. 

O lonely friend ! he still will be 
A potent presence, though unseen, 
Steadfast, sagacious, and serene ; 

Seek not for him he is with thee." 

Hospital Sketches. 137 

MISS ALCOTT could not help feeling deeply 
the excitement of the hour when the war 
broke out. Her father had been one of the earliest 
Abolitionists, having joined the Antislavery Soci 
ety with Garrison, and she well remembered the 
fugitive slave whom her mother had hidden in the 


oven. Now this feeling could be united with her 
patriotic zeal and her strong love of active life, and 
it was inevitable that she should long to share per- 
sonally in the dangers and excitement of the war. 

Louisa had always been the nurse in the family, 
and had by nature the magnetic power which 
encourages and helps the feeble and suffering; 
therefore, since no other way of serving the cause 
opened to her, it was most like her to take her 
own life in her hands and join the corps of devoted 
nurses. She was accepted, and went to Washing- 
ton. Her journal gives an account of her situa- 
tion in the Union Hospital at Georgetown. It was 
a small hospital, much inferior in its appointments 
to those which were afterward arranged. Al- 
though Louisa had never been very ill up to that 
time, and thought herself exceptionally strong, yet 
she had not the rugged constitution fit to bear the 
labors and exposures of such a position ; and the 
healthful habits of outdoor life and simple food to 
which she had always been accustomed made the 
conditions of the crowded, ill-ventilated hospital 
peculiarly perilous to her. She says, " I was never 
ill before this time, and never well afterward." 

But with all its hardships, Miss Alcott found in 
the hospital the varied and intense human life she 
had longed to know. Her great heart went out to 

138 Louisa May Alcott. 

all the men, black or white, the Virginia blacksmith 
and the rough Michigander. She even tried to 
befriend the one solitary rebel who had got left 
behind, and who was taken into the hospital to the 
disgust of some of the men ; but he was imper- 
vious to all kindness, and she could find nothing 
in him for sympathy or romance to fasten upon. 

Miss Alcott remained in the hospital only about 
six weeks. Yet this short period had a very strong 
influence, both for good and evil, on her future 
life. The severe attack of fever which drove her 
from her post left her with shattered nerves and 
weakened constitution, and she never again knew 
the fulness of life and health which she had be- 
fore. The chamber in her quiet home at Concord 
was evermore haunted by the fearful visions of de- 
lirium, and she could not regain there the peace 
she needed for work. But the experience of life, 
the observation of men under the excitement of 
war, the way in which they met the great con- 
queror Death, the revelations of heroism and love, 
and sometimes of bitterness and hate, brought 
her a deeper insight into human life than she 
ever had before, and gave to her writings greater 

Louisa constantly wrote to the family of her 
experiences, and these letters were so interesting 
that she was persuaded to publish them in the 
"Commonwealth" newspaper. They attracted 
great attention, and first made her widely and 
favorably known to a higher public than that 
which had read her stories. 

These letters were published by James Redpath 

Hospital Sketches. 139 

in book form, and Miss Alcott received $200 for 
the book, a welcome sum to her at that time. 
The sketches are almost a literal reproduction of 
her letters to her family; but as they have been 
so extensively read, and are accessible to every 
one, I shall give in preference to them extracts 
from her journal kept at the hospital. Other 
stories growing out of her experience in the hos- 
pital, or more remotely connected with it, have 
been published in the same volume in later edi- 
tions. " My Contraband " is one of the most dra- 
matic and powerful stories she ever wrote. She 
portrays the intensity of hatred in a noble na- 
ture, - -hatred justified by the provocation, and 
yet restrained from fatal execution by the highest 
suggestions of religion. This story called forth a 
letter of commendation and frank criticism from 
Col. T. W. Higginson, which was very encouraging 
to the young writer. 

The beautiful lines on Thoreau's flute, the most 
perfect of her poems, excepting the exquisite trib- 
ute to her mother, were first composed in the 
watches of the night in the hospital, and after- 
wards recalled during the tedious days of conva- 
lescence at Concord. This poem was printed in 
the " Atlantic," and brought her a welcome ten- 
dollar bill. 

" Hospital Sketches ' were hastily written, and 
with little regard to literary execution, but they 
are fresh and original, and, still more, they are 
true, and they appeared at just the time the public 
wanted them. Every heart was longing to hear 
not only from field and camp, but from the hospi- 

140 Louisa May Alcott. 

tals, where sons and brothers were tenderly cared 
for. The generous, hopeful spirit with which Miss 
Alcott entered into the work was recognized as 
that which animated the brave corps of women 
who answered so promptly to their country's call, 
and every loyal and loving heart vibrated in unison 
with the strings she touched so skilfully. 

Journal kept at the Hospital, Georgetown, D. C., 


November. Thirty years old. Decided to go to 
Washington as nurse if I could find a place. Help 
needed, and I love nursing, and must let out my pent-up 
energy in some new way. Winter is always a hard and a 
dull time, and if I am away there is one less to feed and 
warm and worry over. 

I want new experiences, and am sure to get 'em if I 
go. So I Ve sent in my name, and bide my time writing 
tales, to leave all snug behind me, and mending up my 
old clothes, for nurses don't need nice things, thank 
Heaven ! 

December. On the nth I received a note from Miss 
H. M. Stevenson telling me to start for Georgetown next 
day to fill a place in the Union Hotel Hospital. Mrs. 
Ropes of Boston was matron, and Miss Kendall of Ply- 
mouth was a nurse there, and though a hard place, help 
was needed. I was ready, and when my commander 
said " March ! " I marched. Packed my trunk, and 
reported in B. that same evening. 

We had all been full of courage till the last moment 
came ; then we all broke down. I realized that I had 
taken my life in my hand, and might never see them all 
again. I said, " Shall I stay, Mother? " as I hugged her 


Hospital Sketches. 141 

close. " No, go ! and the Lord be with you ! ' answered 
the Spartan woman ; and till I turned the corner she 
bravely smiled and waved her wet handkerchief on the 
door-step. Shall I ever see that dear old face again? 

So I set forth in the December twilight, with May and 
Julian Hawthorne as escort, feeling as if I was the son of 
the house going to war. 

Friday, the i2th, was a very memorable day, spent in 
running all over Boston to get my pass, etc., calling for 
parcels, getting a tooth filled, and buying a veil, my 
only purchase. A. C. gave me some old clothes ; the 
dear Sewalls money for myself and boys, lots of love 
and help ; and at 5 p. M., saying " good-by ' to a group 
of tearful faces at the station, I started on my long jour- 
ney, full of hope and sorrow, courage and plans. 

A most interesting journey into a new world full of 
stirring sights and sounds, new adventures, and an ever- 
growing sense of the great task I had undertaken. 

I said my prayers as I went rushing through the coun- 
try white with tents, all alive with patriotism, and already 
red with blood. 

A solemn time, but I 'm glad to live in it ; and am 
sure it will do me good whether I come out alive or 

All went well, and I got to Georgetown one evening 
very tired. Was kindly welcomed, slept in my narrow 
bed with two other room-mates, and on the morrow be- 
gan my new life by seeing a poor man die at dawn, and 
sitting all day between a boy with pneumonia and a man 
shot through the lungs. A strange day, but I did my 
best ; and when I put mother's little black shawl round 
the boy while he sat up panting for breath, he smiled 
and said, " You are real motherly, ma'am." I felt as if 
I was getting on. The man only lay and stared with his 

142 Louisa May Alcott. 

big black eyes, and made me very nervous. But all were 
well behaved ; and I sat looking at the twenty strong 
faces as they looked back at me, the only new thing 
they had to amuse them, hoping that I looked "moth- 
erly ' to them ; for my thirty years made me feel old, 
and the suffering round me made me long to comfort 
every one. 

Jamiary, 1863. Union Hotel Hospital, Georgetown, 
D. C.- - 1 never began the year in a stranger place 
than this : five hundred miles from home, alone, among 
strangers, doing painful duties all day long, and leading 
a life of constant excitement in this great house, sur- 
rounded by three or four hundred men in all stages of 
suffering, disease, and death. Though often homesick, 
heartsick, and worn out, I like it, find real pleasure in 
comforting, tending, and cheering these poor souls who 
seem to love me, to feel my sympathy though unspoken, 
and acknowledge my hearty good-will, in spite of the 
ignorance, awkwardness, and bashfulness which I cannot 
help showing in so new and trying a situation. The men 
are docile, respectful, and affectionate, with but few ex- 
ceptions ; truly lovable and manly many of them. John 
Sulie, a Virginia blacksmith, is the prince of patients ; 
and though what we call a common man in education 
and condition, to me is all I could expect or ask from 
the first gentleman in the land. Under his plain speech 
and unpolished manner I seem to see a noble character, 
a heart as warm and tender as a woman's, a nature fresh 
and frank as any child's. He is about thirty, I think, 
tall and handsome, mortally wounded, and dying royally 
without reproach, repining, or remorse. Mrs. Ropes 
and myself love him, and feel indignant that such a man 
should be so early lost ; for though he might never dis- 
tinguish himself before the world, his influence and ex- 

Hospital Sketches. 143 

ample cannot be without effect, for real goodness is never 

Monday, ^th. I shall record the events of a day as 
a sample of the days I spend : 

Up at six, dress by gaslight, run through my ward and 
throw up the windows, though the men grumble and 
shiver ; but the air is bad enough to breed a pestilence ; 
and as no notice is taken of our frequent appeals for 
better ventilation, I must do what I can. Poke up the 
fire, add blankets, joke, coax, and command ; but con- 
tinue to open doors and windows as if life depended 
upon it. Mine does, and doubtless many another, for 
a more perfect pestilence-box than this house I never 
saw, cold, damp, dirty, full of vile odors from wounds, 
kitchens, wash-rooms, and stables. No competent head, 
male or female, to right matters, and a jumble of good, 
bad, and indifferent nurses, surgeons, and attendants, to 
complicate the chaos still more. 

After this unwelcome progress through my stifling 
ward, I go to breakfast with what appetite I may ; find 
the uninvitable fried beef, salt butter, husky bread, and 
washy coffee ; listen to the clack of eight women and a 
dozen men, the first silly, stupid, or possessed of one 
idea ; the last absorbed with their breakfast and them- 
selves to a degree that is bot ludicrous and provoking, 
for all the dishes are ordered down the table ///// and 
returned empty; the conversation is entirely among 
themselves, and each announces his opinion with an air 
of importance that frequently causes me to choke in my 
cup, or bolt my meals with undignified speed lest a laugh 
betray to these famous beings that a " chiel 's amang 
them takin' notes." 

Till noon I trot, trot, giving out rations, cutting up 
food for helpless " boys," washing faces, teaching my 

144 Louisa May Alcott. 

attendants how beds are made or floors are swept, dress- 
ing wounds, taking Dr. F. P.'s orders (privately wishing 
all the time that he would be more gentle with my big 
babies), dusting tables, sewing bandages, keeping my 
tray tidy, rushing up and down after pillows, bed-linen, 
sponges, books, and directions, till it seems as if I would 
joyfully pay down all I possess for fifteen minutes' rest. 
At twelve the big bell rings, and up comes dinner for the 
boys, who are always ready for it and never entirely satis- 
fied. Soup, meat, potatoes, and bread is the bill of fare. 
Charley Thayer, the attendant, travels up and down the 
room serving out the rations, saving little for himself, yet 
always thoughtful of his mates, and patient as a woman 
with their helplessness. When dinner is over, some sleep, 
many read, and others want letters written. This I like 
to do, for they put in such odd things, and express their 
ideas so comically, I have great fun interiorally, while as 
grave as possible exteriorally. A few of the men word 
their paragraphs well and make excellent letters. John's 
was the best of all I wrote. The answering of letters 
from friends after some one had died is the saddest and 
hardest duty a nurse has to do. 

Supper at five sets every one to running that can run ; 
and when that flurry is over, all settle down for the eve- 
ning amusements, which consist of newspapers, gossip, 
the doctor's last round, and, for such as need them, the 
final doses for the night. At nine the bell rings, gas is 
turned down, and day nurses go to bed. Night nurses 
go on duty, and sleep and death have the house to 

My work is changed to night watching, or half night 
and half day, - - from twelve to twelve. I like it, as it 
leaves me time for a morning run, which is what I need 
to keep well ; for bad air, food, and water, work and 

Hospital Sketches. 145 

watching, are getting to be too much for me. I trot up 
and down the streets in all directions, sometimes to the 
Heights, then half way to Washington, again to the hill, 
over which the long trains of army wagons are constantly 
vanishing and ambulances appearing. That way the fight- 
ing lies, and I long to follow. 

Ordered to keep my room, being threatened with 
pneumonia. Sharp pain in the side, cough, fever, and 
dizziness. A pleasant prospect for a lonely soul five 
hundred miles from home ! Sit and sew on the boys' 
clothes, write letters, sleep, and read ; try to talk and 
keep merry, but fail decidedly, as day after day goes, and 
I feel no better. Dream awfully, and wake unrefreshed, 
think of home, and wonder if I am to die here, as Mrs. 
R., the matron, is likely to do. Feel too miserable to 
care much what becomes of me. Dr. S. creaks up twice 
a day to feel my pulse, give me doses, and ask if I am 
at all consumptive, or some other cheering question. 
Dr. O. examines my lungs and looks sober. Dr. J. 
haunts the room, coming by day and night with wood, 
cologne, books, and messes, like a motherly little man as 
he is. Nurses fussy and anxious, matron dying, and 
everything very gloomy. They want me to go home, 
but I won't yet. 

January i6th. Was amazed to see Father enter the 
room that morning, having been telegraphed to by order 
of Mrs. R. without asking leave. I was very angry at 
first, though glad to see him, because I knew I should 
have to go. Mrs. D. and Miss Dix came, and pretty 
Miss W., to take me to Willard's to be cared for by them. 
I would n't go, preferring to keep still, being pretty ill by 
that time. 

On the 2ist I suddenly decided to go home, feeling 
very strangely, and dreading to be worse. Mrs. R. died, 


140 Louisa May Alcott. 

and that frightened the doctors about me j for my trouble 
was the same, typhoid pneumonia. Father, Miss K., 
and Lizzie T. went with me. Miss Dix brought a basket 
full of bottles of wine, tea, medicine, and cologne, besides 
a little blanket and pillow, a fan, and a testament. She 
is a kind old soul, but very queer and arbitrary. 

Was very sorry to go, and " my boys " seemed sorry 
to have me. Quite a flock came to see me off; but 
I was too sick to have but a dim idea of what was 
going on. 

Had a strange, excited journey of a day and night, 
half asleep, half wandering, just conscious that I was 
going home ; and, when I got to Boston, of being taken 
out of the car, with people looking on as if I was a sight. 
I daresay I was all blowzed, crazy, and weak. Was too 
sick to reach Concord that night, though we tried to do 
so. Spent it at Mr. SewalPs ; had a sort of fit ; they 
sent for Dr. H., and I had a dreadful time of it. 

Next morning felt better, and at four went home. 
Just remember seeing May's shocked face at the depot, 
Mother's bewildered one at home, and getting to bed in 
the firm belief that the house was roofless, and no one 
wanted to see me. 

As I never shall forget the strange fancies that haunted 
me, I shall amuse myself with recording some of them. 

The most vivid and enduring was the conviction that I 
had married a stout, handsome Spaniard, dressed in black 
velvet, with very soft hands, and a voice that was con- 
tinually saying, Lie still, my dear ! " This was Mother, 
I suspect ; but with all the comfort I often found in her 
presence, there was blended an awful fear of the Spanish 
spouse who was always coming after me, appearing out 
of closets, in at windows, or threatening me dreadfully 
all night long. I appealed to the Pope, and really got 

Hospital Sketches. 147 

up and made a touching plea in something meant for 
Latin, they tell me. Once I went to heaven, and found 
it a twilight place, with people darting through the air in 
a queer way, - - all very busy, and dismal, and ordinary. 
Miss Dix, W. H. Channing, and other people were there ; 
but I thought it dark and "slow," and wished I hadn't 


A mob at Baltimore breaking down the door to get 
me, being hung for a witch, burned, stoned, and other- 
wise maltreated, were some of my fancies. Also being 
tempted to join Dr. W. and two of the nurses in wor- 
shipping the Devil. Also tending millions of rich men 
who never died or got well. 

February.- -Recovered my senses after three weeks 
of delirium, and was told I had had a very bad typhoid 
fever, had nearly died, and was still very sick. All of 
which seemed rather curious, for I remembered nothing 
of it. Found a queer, thin, big- eyed face when I looked 
in the glass; didn't know myself at all; and when I 
tried to walk discovered that I could n't, and cried be- 
cause my legs wouldn't go. 

Never having been sick before, it was all new and very 
interesting when I got quiet enough to understand mat- 
ters. Such long, long nights; such feeble, idle days; 
dozing, fretting about nothing; longing to eat, and no 
mouth to do it with, - - mine being so sore, and full of all 
manner of queer sensations, it was nothing but a plague. 
The old fancies still lingered, seeming so real I believed 
in them, and deluded Mother and May with the most 
absurd stories, so soberly told that they thought them 


Dr. B. came every day, and was very kind. Father 
and Mother were with me night and day, and May sang 
" Birks of Aberfeldie," or read to me, to wile away the 

148 Louisa May Alcott. 

tiresome hours. People sent letters, money, kind in- 
quiries, and goodies for the old " Nuss." I tried to sew, 
read, and write, and found I had to begin all over again. 
Received $ i o for my labors in Washington. Had all my 
hair, a yard and a half long, cut off, and went into caps 
like a grandma. Felt badly about losing my one beauty. 
Never mind, it might have been my head, and a wig 
outside is better than a loss of wits inside. 

March. Began to get about a little, sitting up nearly 
all day, eating more regularly, and falling back into my 
old ways. My first job was characteristic : I cleared 
out my piece-bags and dusted my books, feeling as tired 
as if I had cleaned the whole house. Sat up till nine 
one night, and took no lunch at three A. M., two facts 
which I find carefully recorded in my pocket diary in my 
own shaky handwriting. 

Father had two courses of conversations : one at Mr. 
Quincy's, very select and fine ; the other at a hall not so 
good. He was tired out with taking care of me, poor 
old gentleman ; and typhus was not inspiring. 

Read a great deal, being too feeble to do much else. 
No end of rubbish, with a few good things as ballast. 
"Titan" was the one I enjoyed the most, though it tired 
my weak wits to read much at a time. Recalled, and 
wrote some lines on "Thoreau's Flute," which I com- 
posed one night on my watch by little Shaw at the 

On the 28th Father came home from Boston, bringing 
word that Nan had a fine boy. We all screamed out 
when he burst in, snowy and beaming ; then Mother 
began to cry, May to laugh, and I to say, like B. Trot- 
wood, " There, I knew it wouldn't be a girl ! ' We were 
all so glad it was safely over, and a jolly little lad was 
added to the feminine family. 

Hospital Sketches. 149 

Mother went straight down, to be sure that " mother 
and child were doing well," and I fell to cleaning house, 
as good work for an invalid and a vent for a happy 

First Birth in the Alcott and Pratt BrancJi, 1863. 


DEAREST LITTLE MOTHER, Allow me to ask who 
was a true prophet. 

Also to demand, "Where is my niece, Louisa Caro- 

No matter, I will forgive you, and propose three cheers 
for my nephew. Hurrah ! hurrah ! Hurray ! 

I wish you could have seen the performance on Satur- 
day evening. 

We were all sitting deep in a novel, not expecting 
Father home owing to the snowstorm, when the door 
burst open, and in he came, all wet and white, waving 
his bag, and calling out, " Good news ! good news ! 
Anna has a fine boy ! ' 

With one accord we opened our mouths and screamed 
for about two minutes. Then Mother began to cry ; I 
began to laugh ; and May to pour out questions ; while 
Papa beamed upon us all, red, damp, and shiny, the 
picture of a proud old Grandpa. Such a funny evening 
as we had ! Mother kept breaking down, and each time 
emerged from her handkerchief saying solemnly, " I must 
go right down and see that baby ! ' Father had told 
every one he met, from Mr. Emerson to the coach driver, 
and went about the house saying, " Anna's boy ! yes, 
yes, Anna's boy ! ' in a mild state of satisfaction. 

May and I at once taxed our brains for a name, and 
decided upon " Amos Minot Bridge Bronson May Sewall 
Alcott Pratt," so that all the families would be suited. 

150 Louisa May Alcott. 

I was so anxious to hear more that I went up to town 
this A. M. and found John's note. 

Grandma and Grandpa Pratt came to hear the great 
news ; but we could only inform them of the one tre- 
mendous fact, that Pratt, Jr., had condescended to arrive. 
Now tell us his weight, inches, color, etc. 

I know I shall fall down and adore when I see that 
mite ; yet my soul is rent when I think of the L. C. on 
the pincushion, and all the plans I had made for " my 


Now get up quickly, and be a happy mamma. Of 
course John does not consider his son as the most amaz- 
ing product of the nineteenth century. 

Bless the baby ! 

Ever your admiring Lu. 

April. Had some pleasant walks and drives, and felt 
as if born again, everything seemed so beautiful and new. 
I hope I was, and that the Washington experience may 
do me lasting good. To go very near to death teaches 
one to value life, and this winter will always be a very 
memorable one to me. 

Sewed on little shirts and gowns for my blessed 
nephew, who increased rapidly in stature and godliness. 

Sanborn asked me to do what Conway suggested before 
he left for Europe ; viz., to arrange my letters in a print- 
able shape, and put them in the "Commonwealth." 
They thought them witty and pathetic. I did n't ; but I 
wanted money ; so I made three hospital sketches. Much 
to my surprise, they made a great hit ; and people bought 
the papers faster than they could be supplied. The sec- 
ond, "A Night" was much liked, and I was glad; for 
my beautiful " John Sulie ' was the hero, and the praise 
belonged to him. More were wanted ; and I added a 

Hospital Sketches. 151 

postscript in the form of a letter, which finished it up, as 
I then thought. 

Received $100 from F. L. for a tale which won the 
prize last January; paid debts, and was glad that my 
winter bore visible fruit. Sent L. another tale. Went to 
Boston, and saw " our baby ; ' thought him ugly, but 
promising. Got a set of furniture for my room, a long- 
talked-of dream of ours. 

May. Spent the first week or two in putting the 
house in order. May painted and papered the parlors. 
I got a new carpet and rug besides the paper, and put 
things to rights in a thorough manner. Mother was away 
with Nan, so we had full sweep ; and she came home to 
a clean, fresh house. 

Nan and the Royal Infanta came as bright as a whole 
gross of buttons, and as good as a hairless brown angel. 
Went to Readville, and saw the 54th Colored Regi- 
ment, both there and next day in town as they left for 
the South. Enjoyed it very much ; also the Antislavery 

Had a fresh feather in my cap ; for Mrs. Hawthorne 
showed Fields "Thoreau's Flute," and he desired it for 
the " Atlantic." Of course I did n't say no. It was 
printed, copied, praised, and glorified ; also paid for, and 
being a mercenary creature, I liked the $10 nearly as 
well as the honor of being " a new star " and " a literary 

June. Began to write again on "Moods," feeling en- 
couraged by the commendation bestowed on " Hospital 
Sketches," which were noticed, talked of, and inquired 
about, much to my surprise and delight. Had a fine 
letter from Henry James, also one from W T asson, and a 
request from Redpath to be allowed to print the sketches 
in a book. Roberts Bros, also asked, but I preferred the 

152 Louisa May Alcott. 

Redfath, and said yes ; so he fell to work with all his 

Went to Class Day for the first time ; had a pleasant 
day seeing new sights and old friends. 

G. H. came to the H.'s. Did n't like her as well as 
Miss H. ; too sharp and full of herself; insisted on talk- 
ing about religion with Emerson, who glided away from 
the subject so sweetly, yet resolutely, that the energetic 
lady gave it up at last. 

[1877. Short-sighted Louisa ! Little did you dream that 
this same Roberts Bros, were to help you to make your fortune 
a few years later. The " Sketches " never made much money, 
but showed me " my style," and taking the hint, I went where 
glory waited me. L. M. A.] 

July. Sanborn asked for more contributions, and I 
gave him some of my old Mountain Letters vamped up. 
They were not good, and though they sold the paper, I 
was heartily ashamed of them, and stopped in the middle, 
resolving never again to try to be funny, lest I should be 
rowdy and nothing more. I 'm glad of the lesson, and 
hope it will do me good. 

Had some pleasant letters from Sergeant Bain, one 
of my boys who has not forgotten me, though safely at 
home far away in Michigan. It gratified me very much, 
and brought back the hospital days again. He was a 
merry, brave little fellow, and I liked him very much. 
His right arm was amputated after Fredericksburg, and 
he took it very cheerfully, trying at once to train his left 
hand to do duty for both, and never complained of his 
loss. Baby B." 

August. Redpath carried on the publishing of the 
" Sketches " vigorously, sending letters, proof, and notices 
daily, and making all manner of offers, suggestions, and 

Hospital Sketches. 153 

prophecies concerning the success of the book and its 

Wrote a story, " My Contraband," and sent it to Fields, 
who accepted and paid $50 for it, with much approbation 
for it and the " Sketches." L. sent $40 for a story, and 
wanted another. 

Major M. invited me to Gloucester ; but I refused, be- 
ing too busy and too bashful to be made a lion of, even 
in a very small way. Letters from Dr. Hyde, Wilkie 
(home with a wound from Wagner), Charles Sumner, 
Mr. Hale, and others, all about the little "Sketches," 
which keep on making friends for me, though I don't 
get used to the thing at all, and think it must be all 
a mistake. 

On the 25th my first morning-glory bloomed in my 
room, a hopeful blue, and at night up came my 
book in its new dress. I had added several chapters to 
it, and it was quite a neat little affair. An edition of 
one thousand, and I to have five cents on each copy. 

September. Redpath anxious for another book. Send 
him a volume of stories and part of a book to look at. 
He likes both ; but I decide on waiting a little, as I 'm 
not satisfied with the stories, and the novel needs time. 
" Sketches " sell well, and a new edition is called for. 

Dear old Grandma died at Aunt Betsey's in her eighty- 
ninth year, a good woman, and much beloved by her 
children. I sent money to help lay her away ; for Aunt 
B. is poor, and it was all I could do for the kind little old 

Nan and Freddy made us a visit, and we decided that 
of all splendid babies he was the king. Such a hearty, 
happy, funny boy, I could only play with and adore him 
all the while he stayed, and long for him when he went. 
Nan and John are very fond of " our son," and well they 

154 Louisa May Alcott. 

may be. Grandma and Grandpa think him perfect, and 
even artistic Aunty May condescends to say he is " a 
very nice thing." 

" My Contraband ; or, The Brothers," my story in the 
" Atlantic," came out, and was liked. Received $40 
from Redpath for "Sketches," first edition; wanted 
me to be editor of a paper ; was afraid to try, and let 
it go. 

Poor old " Moods ' came out for another touching 

October. Thought much about going to Port Royal 
to teach contrabands. Fields wanted the letters I should 
write, and asked if I had no book. Father spoke of 
" Moods," and he desired to see it. So I fell to work, 
and finished it off, thinking the world must be coming 
to an end, and all my dreams getting fulfilled in a most 
amazing way. If there was ever an astonished young 
woman, it is myself; for things have gone on so swim- 
mingly of late I don't know who I am. A year ago I 
had no publisher, and went begging with my wares ; now 
three have asked me for something, several papers are 
ready to print my contributions, and F. B. S. says " any 
publisher this side of Baltimore would be glad to get a 
book." There is a sudden hoist for a meek and lowly 
scribbler, who was told to " stick to her teaching," and 
never had a literary friend to lend a helping hand ! Fif- 
teen years of hard grubbing may be coming to something 
after all ; and I may yet " pay all the debts, fix the 
house, send May to Italy, and keep the old folks cosey," 
as I Ve said I would so long, yet so hopelessly. 

May began to take anatomical drawing lessons of Rim- 
mer. I was very glad to be able to pay her expenses up 
and down and clothe her neatly. Twenty dollars more 
from Redpath on account. 

Hospital Sketches. 155 

December. Earnings 1863, $380. 

The principal event of this otherwise quiet month was 
the Sanitary Fair in Boston, and our part in it. At G. G. 
B.'s request, I dramatized six scenes from Dickens, and 
went to town on the i4th to play. Things did not go 
well for want of a good manager and more time. Our 
night was not at all satisfactory to us, owing to the falling 
through of several scenes for want of actors. People 
seemed to like what there was of it, and after a weari- 
some week I very gladly came home again. Our six 
entertainments made twenty-five hundred dollars for 
the Fair. 

Rewrote the fairy tales, one of which was published ; 
but owing to delays it was late for the holidays, and badly 
bound in the hurry; so the poor "Rose Family" fared 

Had a letter from the publisher of a new magazine, 
called the " Civil Service Magazine," asking for a long 
tale. Had no time to write one ; but will by and by, if 
the thing is good. 

While in town received $10 of F. B. S. and $20 of 
Redpath, with which I bought May hat, boots, gloves, 
ribbons, and other little matters, besides furnishing money 
for her fares up and down to Rimmer. 

January, 1864. New Year's Day was a very quiet 
one. Nan and Freddy were here, and in the evening we 
went to a dance at the hall. A merry time ; for all the 
town was there, as it was for the Soldiers' Aid Society, 

9 J 7 

and every one wanted to help. Nan and I sat in the 
gallery, and watched the young people dance the old 
year out, the new year in as the clock struck twelve. 

On looking over my accounts, I find I have earned by 
my writing alone nearly six hundred dollars since last 
January, and spent less than a hundred for myself, which 

156 Louisa May Alcott. 

I am glad to know. May has had $70 for herself, and 
the rest has paid debts or bought necessary things for 
the family. 

Received from the "Commonwealth' $18 for "A 
Hospital Christmas." Wrote a fairy tale, " Fairy Pina- 
fores." " Picket Duty " and other tales came out, first 
of Redpath's series of books for the " Camp Fires." 
Richardson sent again for a long story for the " Civil 
Service Magazine." Tried a war story, but could n't 
make it go. 

February. Nan quite sick again. Mother passed 
most of the month with her ; so I had to be housekeeper, 
and let my writing go, as well perhaps, as my wits are 
tired, and the " divine afflatus " don't descend as readily 
as it used to do. Must wait and fill up my idea- box be- 
fore I begin again. There is nothing like work to set 
fancy a-going. 

Redpath came flying up on the 4th to get " Moods," 
promising to have it out by May. Gave it to him with 
many fears, and he departed content. The next day re- 
ceived a telegram to come down at once and see the 
printers. Went, and was told the story was too long for 
a single volume, and a two-volume novel was bad to be- 
gin with. Would I cut the book down about half ? No, 
I would n't, having already shortened it all it would bear. 
So I took my " opus " and posted home again, promising 
to try and finish my shorter book in a month. 

A dull, heavy month, grubbing in the kitchen, sewing, 
cleaning house, and trying to like my duty. 

Mrs. S. takes a great fancy to May ; sends her flowers, 
offers to pay for her to go to the new Art School, and ar- 
ranges everything delightfully for her. She is a fortunate 
girl, and always finds some one to help her as she wants 
to be helped. Wish I could do the same, but suppose as 

Hospital Sketches. 157 

I never do that it is best for me to work and wait and do 
all for myself. 

Mr. Storrs, D.D., wrote for a sketch for his little paper, 
"The Drum Beat," to be printed during the Brooklyn 
Sanitary Fair. A very cordial, pleasant letter, which I 
answered by a little sketch called "A Hospital Lamp." 
He sent me another friendly letter, and all the daily 
papers as they came out. A very gentlemanly D.D. is 
Dr. Storrs. 

The " Hospital Sketches " were fully entitled to 
their wide and rapid popularity; and for the first 
time perhaps Miss Alcott felt sure of her vocation, 
and knew that it would bring at last the success 
which would enable her to carry out her plans for 
the family. And yet the battle was not over. 
She gained in reputation, was received with great 
attention in society, and lionized more than she 
cared for. But she still continued writing stories 
for the various papers at very low prices. Some 
of them were refused by the publishers, as she 
thinks, on account of the Antislavery sentiments 
expressed in them. Her " blood and thunder ' 
stories continued in demand, and she wrote them 
rapidly, and was glad of the money they brought. 
But she had not yet found her true path, and 
she suffered at times from keen depression of 
spirits ; for the way seemed long and dark, and 
she did not see the end. In more than one 
sense she struggled with Moods ; for that un- 
happy book was still tossed from publisher to 
publisher, who gave her much praise, but no 

158 Louisa May Alcott. 


A busy month getting settled. Freddy's birthday on 
the 28th, one year old. He had a dozen nice little pres- 
ents laid out in a row when he came down to breakfast, 
and seemed quite overpowered with his riches. On being 
told to take what he liked best, he chose the picture of 
little Samuel which Father gave him, and the good pope 
was much delighted at that. 

Was asked for a poem for the great album at the St. 
Louis Fair, and sent " Thoreau's Flute ' as my best. 
Also received a letter from the Philadelphia managers 
asking contributions for the paper to be printed at their 

Wrote nothing this month. 

April. At Father's request I sent "Moods" to T., 
and got a very friendly note from him, saying they had 
so many books on hand that they could do nothing about 
it now. So I put it back on the shelf, and set about my 
other work. Don't despair, " Moods," we '11 try again 
by and by ! 

[Alas ! we did try again. --L. M. A.] 

Wrote the first part of a story for Professor C. called 
"Love and Loyalty," flat, patriotic, and done to order. 
Wrote a new fairy tale, " Nelly's Hospital." 

May. Had a letter from Mrs. Gildersleeve, asking 
for my photograph and a sketch of my life, for a book 
called " Heroic Women ' : which she was getting up. 
Respectfully refused. Also a letter and flattering notice 
from "Ruth Hall," and a notice from a Chicago critic 
with a long extract from " Rose Family." My tale 
" Enigmas ' came out, and was much liked by readers 
of sensation rubbish. Having got my $50, I was 

Hospital Sketches. 159 

June. To town with Father on the 3d to a Fra- 
ternity Festival to which we were invited. Had a fine 
time, and was amazed to find my " 'umble " self made a 
lion of, set up among the great ones, stared at, waited 
upon, complimented, and made to hold a " layvee ' 
whether I would or no ; for Mr. S. kept bringing up 
people to be introduced till I was tired of shaking hands 
and hearing the words " Hospital Sketches ' uttered in 
every tone of interest, admiration, and respect. Mr. 
Wasson, Whipple, Alger, Clarke, Calthrop, and Chad- 
wick came to speak to me, and many more whose names 
I forget. It was a very pleasant surprise and a new ex- 
perience. I liked it, but think a small dose quite as 
much as is good for me ; for after sitting in a corner 
and grubbing a la Cinderella, it rather turns one's head 
to be taken out and be treated like a princess all of 
a sudden. 

August. Went to Gloucester for a fortnight with May 
at the M.'s. Found a family of six pretty daughters, a 
pleasant mother, and a father who was an image of one 
of the Cheeryble brothers. Had a jolly time boating, 
driving, charading, dancing, and picnicking. One mild 
moonlight night a party of us camped out on Norman's 
Woe, and had a splendid time, lying on the rocks sing- 
ing, talking, sleeping, and rioting up and down. Had a 
fine time, and took coffee at all hours. The moon rose 
and set beautifully, and the sunrise was a picture I never 
shall forget. 

Wrote another fairy tale, "Jamie's Wonder Book," 
and sent the " Christmas Stories " to W. & W., with 
some lovely illustrations by Miss Greene. They liked 
the book very much, and said they would consult about 
publishing it, though their hands were full. 

September. Mrs. D. made a visit, and getting hold 

160 Louisa May Alcott. 

of my old book of stories liked them, and insisted on 
taking " Moods " home to read. As she had had expe- 
rience with publishers, was a good business woman, and 
an excellent critic, I let her have it, hoping she might 
be able to give the poor old book the lift it has been 
waiting for all these years. She took it, read it, and 
admired it heartily, saying that " no American author 
had showed so much promise ; that the plan was admi- 
rable ; the execution unequal, but often magnificent ; 
that I had a great field before me, and my book must be 
got out." 

Mrs. D. sent it to L., who liked it exceedingly, and 
asked me to shorten it if I could, else it would be too 
large to sell well. Was much disappointed, said I 'd 
never touch it again, and tossed it into the spidery little 
cupboard where it had so often returned after fruitless 

At last, in the excited hours of a wakeful night, 
Miss Alcott thought of a way to curtail the objec- 
tionable length of the book, and she spent a fortnight 
in remodelling it, as she then thought improving 
it greatly, although she afterwards returned to 
her original version as decidedly the best. The 
book was brought out, and she had the pleasure 
of presenting the first copy to her mother on her 
sixty-fourth birthday. She had various projects in 
her mind, one of which was a novel, with two char- 
acters in it like Jean Paul Richter and Goethe. It 
is needless to say this was never carried out. Miss 
Alcott had great powers of observation, and a keen 
insight into character as it fell within her own 
range of life, but she had not the creative imagi- 

Hospital Sketches. 161 

nation which could paint to the life the subtlest 
workings of thought and feeling in natures foreign 
to her own experience. She could not have por- 
trayed such men: but who could? 


October. Wrote several chapters of "Work," and 
was getting on finely, when, as I lay awake one night, 
a way to shorten and arrange " Moods ' came into my 
head. The whole plan laid itself smoothly out before 
me, and I slept no more that night, but worked on it as 
busily as if mind and body had nothing to do with 
one another. Up early, and began to write it all over 
again. The fit was on strong, and for a fortnight I hardly 
ate, slept, or stirred, but wrote, wrote, like a thinking 
machine in full operation. When it was all rewritten 
without copying, I found it much improved, though I 'd 
taken out ten chapters, and sacrificed many of my favo- 
rite things ; but being resolved to make it simple, strong, 
and short, I let everything else go, and hoped the book 
would be better for it. 

[It was n't. 1867.] 

Sent it to L. ; and a week after, as I sat hammering 
away at the parlor carpet, dusty, dismal, and tired, - 
a letter came from L. praising the story more enthusias- 
tically than ever, thanking me for the improvements, and 
proposing to bring out the book at once. Of course 
we all had a rapture, and I finished my work " double 
quick," regardless of weariness, toothache, or blue 

Next day I went to Boston and saw L. A brisk, busi- 
ness-like man who seemed in earnest and said many 


1 62 Louisa May Alcott. 

complimentary things about " Hospital Sketches " and 
its author. It was agreed to bring out the book immedi- 
ately, and Mrs. D. offered to read the proof with me. 

Was glad to have the old thing under way again, but 
did n't quite believe it would ever come out after so 
many delays and disappointments. 

Sewed for Nan and Mary, heard Anna Dickinson and 
liked her. Read " Emily Chester ' and thought it an 
unnatural story, yet just enough like " Moods " in a few 
things to make me sorry that it came out now. 

On Mother's sixty-fourth birthday I gave her " Moods " 
with this inscription, " To Mother, my earliest patron, 
kindest critic, dearest reader, I gratefully and affection- 
ately inscribe my first romance." 

A letter from T. asking me to write for the new maga- 
zine "Our Young Folks," and saying that "An Hour" 
was in the hands of the editors. 

November. Proof began to come, and the chapters 
seemed small, stupid, and no more my own in print. I 
felt very much afraid that I 'd ventured too much and 
should be sorry for it. But Emerson says "that what 
is true for your own private heart is true for others." So 
I wrote from my own consciousness and observation and 
hope it may suit some one and at least do no harm. 

I sent "An Hour" to the "Commonwealth" and it 
was considered excellent. Also wrote a Christmas Story, 
" Mrs. Todger's Teapot." T. asked to see the other fairy 
tales and designs and poems, as he liked " Nelly's Hos- 
pital " so much. 

On my thirty-second birthday received Richter's Life 
from Nan and enjoyed it so much that I planned a story 
of two men something like Jean Paul and Goethe, only 
more every-day people. Don't know what will come of 
it, but if " Moods " goes well " Success " shall follow. 

Hospital Sketches. 163 

Sewed for Wheeler's colored company and sent them 
comfort-bags, towels, books, and bed-sacks. Mr. W. 
sent me some relics from Point Look Out and a pleasant 

December. Earnings, 1864, - -$476. 

On Christmas Eve received ten copies of "Moods" 
and a friendly note from L. The book was hastily got 
out, but on the whole suited me, and as the inside was 
considered good I let the outside go. For a week where- 
ever I went I saw, heard, and talked " Moods ; ' found 
people laughing or crying over it, and was continually 
told how well it was going, how much it was liked, how 
fine a thing I 'd done. I was glad but not proud, I 
think, for it has always seemed as if " Moods " grew in 
spite of me, and that I had little to do with it except to 
put into words the thoughts that would not let me rest 
until I had. Don't know why. 

By Saturday the first edition was gone and the second 
ready. Several booksellers ordered a second hundred, 
the first went so fast, and friends could not get it but had 
to wait till more were ready. 

Spent a fortnight in town at Mary's, shopping, helping 
Nan, and having plays. Heard Emerson once. Gave 
C. " Mrs. Todger's Teapot," which was much liked. 
Sent L. the rest of his story and got 50. S. paid $35 
for "An Hour." R. promised $100 for "Love and 
Loyalty," so my year closes with a novel well-launched 
and about $300 to pay debts and make the family happy 
and comfortable till spring. Thank God for the success 
of the old year, the promise of the new ! 

The sale of " Moods " was at first very rapid ; 
for " Hospital Sketches " had created an interest in 
the author, and welcome recognition came to her 

164 Louisa May Alcott. 

from many sources. She received a handsome 
sum from the copyright, and " the year closed with 
enough to make her feel free of debt and the 
family comfortable." She ends the year's journal 

The following year was spent mostly in Boston. 
Miss Alcott went into society and enjoyed the 
friendly attentions of men and women of ability. 
She continued to write stories for money, but now 
received fifty, seventy-five, or a hundred dollars for 
them. She frequently took part in theatrical per- 
formances for charities. She was always brilliant 
and successful and enjoyed them with something 
of her early zest. 

Her long story of " Success," or "Work," "as she 
afterwards named it, was still in her mind, but she 
did not finish it at this time. 


January, 1865. The month began with some plays 
at the town hall to raise funds for the Lyceum. We did 
very well and some Scenes from Dickens were excellent. 
Father lectured and preached a good deal, being asked 
like a regular minister and paid like one. He enjoyed 
it very much and said good things on the new religion 
which we ought to and shall have. May had orders 
from Canada and England for her pretty pen-and-ink 
work and did well in that line. 

Notices of " Moods " came from all directions, and 
though people did n't understand my ideas owing to my 
shortening the book so much, the notices were mostly 
favorable and gave quite as much praise as was good for 
me. I had letters from Mrs. Parker, Chadwick, Sanborn, 

Hospital Sketches. 165 

E. B. Greene, the artist, T. W. Higginson and some 
others. All friendly and flattering. 

Saw more notices of " Moods ' and received more 
letters, several from strangers and some very funny. 
People seemed to think the book finely written, very 
promising, wise, and interesting ; but some fear it is n't 
moral, because it speaks freely of marriage. 

Wrote a little on poor old " Work " but being tired of 
novels, I soon dropped it and fell back on rubbishy tales, 
for they pay best, and I can't afford to starve on praise, 
when sensation stories are written in half the time and 
keep the family cosey. 

Earned $75 this month. 

I went to Boston and heard Father lecture before the 
Fraternity. Met Henry James, Sr., there, and he asked me 
to come and dine, also called upon me with Mrs. James. 
I went, and was treated like the Queen of Sheba. Henry 
Jr. wrote a notice of " Moods " for the " North Ameri- 
can," and was very friendly. Being a literary youth he 
gave me advice, as if he had been eighty and I a girl. 
My curly crop made me look young, though thirty-one. 

Acted in some public plays for the N. E. Women's 
Hospital and had a pleasant time. 

L. asked me to be a regular contributor to his new 
paper, and I agreed if he 'd pay beforehand ; he said he 
would, and bespoke two tales at once, $50 each, longer 
ones as often as I could, and whatever else I liked to 
send. So here 's another source of income and Alcott 
brains seem in demand, whereat I sing " Hallyluyer " 
and fill up my inkstand. 

April. Richmond taken on the 2d. Hurrah ! Went 
to Boston and enjoyed the grand jollification. Saw 
Booth again in Hamlet and thought him finer than ever. 
Had a pleasant walk and talk with Phillips. 

1 66 Louisa May Alcott. 

On the 1 5th in the midst of the rejoicing came the 
sad news of the President's assassination, and the city went 
into mourning. I am glad to have seen such a strange 
and sudden change in a nation's feelings. Saw the great 
procession, and though few colored men were in it, one 
was walking arm in arm with a white gentleman, and I 
exulted thereat. 

Nan went to housekeeping in a pleasant house at 
Jamaica Plain, and I went to help her move. It was 
beautiful to see how Freddy enjoyed the freedom, after 
being cooped up all winter, and how every morning, 
whether it rained or shone, he looked out and said, with 
a smile of perfect satisfaction, " Oh, pretty day ! " for 
all days were pretty to him, dear little soul ! 

Had a fine letter from Conway, and a notice in the 
"Reader," an English paper. He advised sending 
copies to several of the best London papers. English 
people don't understand " transcendental literature," as 
they call " Moods." My next book shall have no ideas 
in it, only facts, and the people shall be as ordinary as 
possible ; then critics will say it 's all right. I seem to 
have been playing with edge tools without knowing it. 
The relations between Warwick, Moor, and Sylvia are 
pronounced impossible ; yet a case of the sort exists, and 
the woman came and asked me how I knew it. I did 
not know or guess, but perhaps felt it, without any other 
guide, and unconsciously put the thing into my book, for 
I changed the ending about that time. It was meant to 
show a life affected by moods, not a discussion of mar- 
riage, which I knew little about, except observing that 
very few were happy ones. 

June. Busy writing, keeping house, and sewing. Com- 
pany often ; and strangers begin to come, demanding to 
see the authoress, who does not like it, and is porcupiny. 

Hospital Sketches. 167 

Admire the books, but let the woman alone, if you 
please, dear public ! 

On the 24th Anna's second boy was born, at half-past 
three in the morning, Lizzie's birthday. A fine, stout, 
little lad, who took to life kindly, and seemed to find the 
world all right. Freddy could not understand it at first, 
and told his mother that " the babee " had got his place. 
But he soon loved the "tunning sing," and would stand 
watching it with a grave face, till some funny little idea 
found vent in still funnier words or caresses. 

Nan was very happy with her two boys, so was John, 
though both had wished for a daughter. 

fitly. While at Nan's Mrs. B. asked me if I would 
go abroad with her sister. I said " yes ; ' but as I 
spoke neither French nor German, she did n't think I 'd 
do. I was sorry ; but being used to disappointment, 
went to work for Nan, and bided my time, which came 
very soon. 

To Anna. 

[Date uncertain.] 

MY LASS, This must be a frivolous and dressy letter, 
because you always want to know about our clothes, and 
we have been at it lately. May's bonnet is a sight for 
gods and men. Black and white outside, with a great 
cockade boiling over the front to meet a red ditto surg- 
ing from the interior, where a red rainbow darts across 
the brow, and a surf of white lace foams up on each side. 
I expect to hear that you and John fell flat in the dust 
with horror on beholding it. 

My bonnet has nearly been the death of me ; for, 
thinking some angel might make it possible for me to go 
to the mountains, I felt a wish for a tidy hat, after wear- 
ing an old one till it fell in tatters from my brow. Mrs. 
P. promised a bit of gray silk, and I built on that ; but 

1 68 Louisa May Alcott. 

when I went for it I found my hat was founded on sand ; 
for she let me down with a crash, saying she wanted the 
silk herself, and kindly offering me a flannel petticoat 
instead. I was in woe for a spell, having one dollar in 
the world, and scorning debt even for that prop of life, 
a " bonnet." Then I roused myself, flew to Dodge, 
demanded her cheapest bonnet, found one for a dollar, 
took it, and went home wondering if the sky would open 
and drop me a trimming. I am simple in my tastes, but 
a naked straw bonnet is a little too severely chaste even 
for me. Sky did not open ; so I went to the " Widow 
Cruise's oil bottle" my ribbon box which, by the 
way, is the eighth wonder of the world, for nothing is 
ever put in, yet I always find some old dud when all 
other hopes fail. From this salvation bin I extracted the 
remains of the old white ribbon (used up, as I thought, 
two years ago), and the bits of black lace that have 
adorned a long line of departed hats. Of the lace I 
made a dish, on which I thriftily served up bows of rib- 
bon, like meat on toast. Inside put the lace bow, which 
adorns my form anywhere when needed. A white flower 
A. H. gave me sat airily on the brim, fearfully unbe- 
coming, but pretty in itself, and in keeping. Strings are 
yet to be evolved from chaos. I feel that they await me 
somewhere in the dim future. Green ones/;v tern, hold 
this wonder of the age upon my gifted brow, and I survey 
my hat with respectful awe. I trust you will also, and 
see in it another great example of the power of mind 
over matter, and the convenience of a colossal brain in 
the primeval wrestle with the unruly atoms which have 
harassed the feminine soul ever since Eve clapped on a 
modest fig-leaf and did up her hair with a thorn for a 

I feel very moral to-day, having done a big wash alone, 

Hospital Sketches. 169 

baked, swept the house, picked the hops, got dinner, and 
written a chapter in " Moods." May gets exhausted 
with work, though she walks six miles without a murmur. 

It is dreadfully dull, and I work so that I may not 
" brood." Nothing stirring but the wind ; nothing to see 
but dust ; no one comes but rose-bugs ; so I grub and 
scold at the "A." because it takes a poor fellow's tales 
and keeps 'em years without paying for 'em. If I think 
of my woes I fall into a vortex of debts, dishpans, and 
despondency awful to see. So I say, " every path has 
its puddle," and try to play gayly with the tadpoles in 
my puddle, while I wait for the Lord to give me a lift, or 
some gallant Raleigh to spread his velvet cloak and fetch 
me over dry shod. 

L. W. adds to my woe by writing of the splendors of 
Gorham, and says, " When tired, run right up here and 
find rest among these everlasting hills." All very aggra- 
vating to a young woman with one dollar, no bonnet, 
half a gown, and a discontented mind. It 's a mercy 
the mountains are everlasting, for it will be a century 
before / get there. Oh. me, such is life ! 

Now I Ve done my Jeremiad, and I will go on twang- 
ing my harp in the " willow tree." 

You ask what I am writing. Well, two books half 
done, nine stories simmering, and stacks of fairy stories 
moulding on the shelf. I can 't do much, as I have no 
time to get into a real good vortex. It unfits me for 
work, worries Ma to see me look pale, eat nothing, and 
ply by night. These extinguishers keep genius from 
burning as I could wish, and I give up ever hoping to 
do anything unless luck turns for your 





FOUR little chests all in a row, 

Dim with dust and worn by time, 
All fashioned and filled long ago 

By children now in their prime. 
Four little keys hung side by side, 

With faded ribbons, brave and gay 
When fastened there with childish pride 

Long ago on a rainy day. 
Four little names, one on each lid, 

Carved out by a boyish hand ; 
And underneath there lieth hid 

Histories of the happy band 
Once playing here, and pausing oft 

To hear the sweet refrain 
That came and went on the roof aloft 

In the falling summer rain. 

Four little chests all in a row, 

Dim with dust and worn by time : 
Four women, taught by weal and woe 

To love and labor in their prime ; 
Four sisters parted for an hour, 

None lost, one only gone before, 
Made by love's immortal power 

Nearest and dearest evermore. 
Oh ! when these hidden stores of ours 

Lie open to the Father's sight, 
May they be rich in golden hours, 

Deeds that show fairer for the light, 
Deeds whose brave music long shall ring 

Like a spirit-stirring strain, 
Souls that shall gladly soar and sing 

In the long sunshine, after rain. 

Europe, and Little Women. 171 

THE years which followed the war and Miss 
Alcott's experience as a hospital nurse were 
rather sad and anxious from many causes. Louisa 
felt deeply the loss of one sister by death and the 
separation from another by marriage. The success 
of " Hospital Sketches ' and a few other stories 
published about the same time had given her confi- 
dence in her powers and hopes of a successful future. 
But for nearly five years she accomplished nothing 
which met with equal favor. The reception of the 
novel " Moods," in which she thought she had ex- 
pressed her best life, was not cheering to her; and 
she had become wholly dissatisfied with the sensa- 
tional stories, which formed the most ready resource 
for earning money. Her health was seriously in- 
jured by the fever from which she suffered in the 
hospital, and she had no longer the physical energy 
to sustain the unceasing activity of her brain. 

Under these difficulties she naturally desired a 
change of circumstances ; and the old longing for 
a journey to Europe which she had felt strongly 
in her youth, and which, like all American:: of cul- 
ture, she felt more and more as time passed on 
became her ruling desire. She was very fond 
of new scenes and variety of people, and she 
often expressed a wish to live many years in 

The circumstances of the family were not yet 
such as to justify Louisa, in her own eyes, in 
taking her earnings for the desired trip. But in 
1865 an opportunity was offered her to go to 
Europe as companion to an invalid lady. From 
her experience in nursing for which she had a 

172 Louisa May Alcott. 

natural gift she and her friends thought her 
suited to the position, and advised her acceptance 
of the offer. 

Although devotedly kind, unselfish, and gener- 
ous, Louisa had not the temperament suited to the 
needs of a nervous invalid. She was impetuous 
and impatient, and her own life was too strong 
within her and too earnest in its cravings, for her 
to restrain her moods and actions within the narrow 
limits of a companion's service. She found even 
what she recognized as fair services wearisome and 
distasteful, and sometimes chafed severely under 
what seemed unnecessary demands on her time, 
strength, and patience. Looking back on this ex- 
perience in later years, she recognized these facts, 
and wrote in 1885 : " Now, being a nervous invalid 
myself, I understand what seemed whims, selfish- 
ness, and folly in others." 

Louisa finally decided to leave her companions 
and go on alone to Paris and England, where she 
would find many of her own and her father's friends. 
At Vevay she had made the acquaintance of a 
young Polish lad, whom she found very interesting, 
and who was the original of the charming Laurie in 
" Little Women." He met her again in Paris, and 
contributed greatly to the pleasure of her stay there. 
He afterwards came to America, and visited her; 
but finally returned to his own country. 

The journal gives a sufficient account of her life 
while on this journey. I have no letters written 
at this time, as she wished all her family letters 
destroyed. Her few weeks in London passed very 
happily. Her wide reading in English history 

Etirope, and Little Women. 173 

and in contemporary fiction, especially the works 
of Dickens and Thackeray, filled London with in- 
teresting associations, and she enjoyed thoroughly 
her free rambles through the old city, as well as 
the interesting people, who received her with great 

That Louisa might have these few weeks of 
entire relaxation and enjoyment, her mother had 
been obliged to borrow means for the support 
of the family; and Louisa was very anxious to 
clear off this debt like all others. She was very 
exact in pecuniary matters. Money to her was 
not an end, but a most necessary means. She 
paid every debt that her father had incurred, 
even though outlawed by time. It is often asked 
whether she ever sold her beautiful hair, as repre- 
sented in " Little Women." The deed was never 
really done ; but she and her sisters always held this 
treasure as a possible resource in case of need ; and 
Louisa once says in her journal, " I will pay my 
debts, if I have to sell my hair to do it." She even 
went so far as to inquire of a barber as to its money 


1865. Mr. W., hearing that I was something of a 
nurse and wanted to travel, proposed my going with his 
invalid daughter. I agreed, though I had my doubts. 
But every one said " Go ; ' so after a week of worry I 
did go. On the 1 9th we sailed in the "China." I could 
not realize that my long-desired dream was coming true ; 
and fears that I might not see all the dear home faces 
when I came back made my heart very full as we steamed 
down the harbor and Boston vanished. 

1/4 Louisa May Alcott. 

Was not very sick, but uncomfortable all the way, and 
found the Ladies' Saloon my only refuge till we were 
nearly across ; enjoyed intervals of quiet, and had many 
fine glimpses of the sea in its various moods, sunsets and 
sunrises, fogs, icebergs, rain-storms, and summer calms. 
No very pleasant people on board ; so I read, took notes, 
and wiled away the long days as I best could. 

We had a very quiet and quick passage of nine days, 
and on Saturday, the 29th, steamed up the Mersey at 
dawn, and got to Liverpool at nine. I was heartily glad 
to set my feet on the solid earth, and thought I 'd never 
go to sea again ; rested, and looked about a little. 

Aiigust. Went up to London, and there spent four 
dull, drizzly days. I amused myself in my usual way, 
looking well about me, and writing down all I saw in my 
pocket-diary or letters. Went to the parks, Westminster 
Abbey, and some of the famous streets. I felt as if I 'd 
got 'into a novel while going about in the places I 'd read 
so much of; saw no one I knew, and thought English 
weather abominable. 

On the 5th to Dover through a lovely green country; 
took steamer there to Ostende ; but was ill all the way, 
and saw nothing but a basin ; spent two days at a queer 
hotel near the fine promenade, which was a very foreign 
and brilliant scene. To Brussels on the yth. Here I 
enjoyed much, for the quaint old city was full of inter- 
esting things. The ancient square, where the statues of 
Egmont and Horn stand, was my delight ; for the old 
Dutch houses were still standing, and everything was so 
new and strange I wanted to stay a month. 

To Cologne on the 9th, and the country we passed 
through was like a big picture-book. The city was very 
hot, dirty, and evil-smelling. We saw the Cathedral, got 
eau de Cologne, and very gladly left after three days. 

Europe, and Little Women. 175 

On the 1 2th began a lovely voyage up the Rhine. It 
was too beautiful to describe, so I shall not try ; but I feel 
richer and better for that memorable day. We reached 
Coblenz at sunset, and I was up half the night enjoying 
the splendid view of the fortress opposite the town, the 
moonlit river with its bridges of boats, and troops cross- 
ing at midnight. 

A second day, still more charming, took us through 
the famous parts of the Rhine, and filled my head with 
pictures that will last all my life. 

Before we reached Bieberich we stopped at a queer 
little Dutch town, and had a queer time ; for no one 
spoke English, and we only a little bad French. Passed 
the night there, and next day reached Schwalbach after 
many trials and tribulations. 

The place is a narrow valley shut in by high hills, the 
town being divided into two parts : the lowest is the 
original town queer ale-houses, churches, and narrow 
streets ; the upper part, near the springs, is full of fine 
hotels, pleasure-grounds, and bath-houses. 

We took lodgings with Madame Genth, wife of the 
Forestmeister (forest master), two rooms, and be- 
gan the water under Dr. Genth's care. 

We walked a little, talked a little, bathed and rode a 
little, worried a good deal, and I grubbed away at French, 
with no master and small success. 

September. Still at Schwalbach, A. doing her best to 
get well, and I doing mine to help her. Rather dull 
days, bathing, walking, and quiddling about. 

A letter from home on the 2Oth. All well and happy, 
thank God. It touched and pleased me very much to 
see how they missed me, thought of me, and longed to 
have me back. Every little thing I ever did for them is 
now so tenderly and gratefully remembered ; and my ab- 

176 Louisa May Alcott. 

sence seems to have left so large a gap that I begin to 
realize how much I am to them in spite of all my faults. 
The letters made me very happy, and everything bright- 
ened immensely. A. got stronger, and when G. came on 
the 28th was able to start off next day on the way to 
Yevay, where we are to pass some weeks before we are 
to go to Nice. 

Went to Wiesbaden first, a pleasant, gay place, full of 
people. Saw the gambling hall and people playing, the 
fine grounds and drives, and then went on to Frankfort. 
Here I saw and enjoyed a good deal. The statues of 
Goethe, Schiller, Faust, Gutenberg, and SchaefTer are in 
the squares. Goethe's house is a tall, plain building, with 
each story projecting over the lower, and a Dutch roof; 
a marble slab over the front door recording the date of 
Goethe's birth. I took a look at it and wanted to go in, 
as it was empty, but there was no time. Some Americans 
said, "Who was Goethe, to fuss about? " 

Frankfort is a pleasant old city on the river, and I 'm 
glad to have been there. 

October. On to Heidelberg, a charming old place 
surrounded by mountains. We went to the Castle and 
had a fine time roving about the ruins, looking at the 
view from the great terrace, admiring the quaint stone 
images of knights, saints, monsters, and angels, and vis- 
iting the big tun in the cellar by torchlight. 

The moon rose while we were there and completed the 
enchantment of the scene. 

The drive home was like looking at a picture-book, for 
the street was narrow, the carriage high, and we looked 
in at the windows, seeing pretty scenes. Here, men drink- 
ing beer in a Dutch-looking room ; there, little children 
going to bed ; a pair of lovers with a pot of flowers be- 
tween them ; an old woman brooding over the fire like a 

Europe, and Little Women. 177 

witch ; and in one room some one lay dead surrounded 
by candles. 

From H. we went' to Baden-Baden, a very fashionable 
place. The old chateau was my delight, and we passed 
a morning going up and down to visit it. Next to Frei- 
burg, where the Cathedral delighted me extremely, being 
full of old carved images and grotesque designs ; the 
market-place with the fountains, statues, water running 
beside the streets, and queer costumes. 

Basle came next, and a firemen's fete made the city 
very gay. The hotel was on the river, and moonlight 
made a Venetian scene for me with the lighted bridge, 
covered with gondola-like boats and music from both 
shores. I walk while A. rests, and enjoy sights from my 
window when she is asleep, as I cannot leave her at 

On our way to Berne I caught my first glimpse of the 
Alps, October 8th, mother's birthday. Tall, white, spec- 
tral-looking shapes they were, towering above the green 
hills and valleys that lay between. Clouds half hid them, 
and the sun glittered on the everlasting snow that lay 
upon their tops. Sharp, strange outlines against the sky 
they became as night came on, and in the morning I had 
a fine view of the Jungfrau, the Bliimlis, the Wetterhorn, 
and Monch from the terrace at Berne. 

B. was a queer old city, but I saw little of it except the 
bears and shops. No time. 

Freiburg No. 2 was the most romantic place we have 
been in. The town is built in a wide crevice or valley 
between two steep hills, so that suspension bridges are 
hung from height to height over a winding river and the 
streets of the town. Watch-towers stand all about on the 
hills, and give a very romantic air to the place. The hotel 
overhung the valley, and from our rooms we went out 


Louisa May Alcott. 

along a balcony to a wide, paved platform with a fountain 
in the middle, an aviary, and flowers all about. The view 
down the valley was charming, the airy bridges, green 
or rocky slopes, busy squares below, cows and goats feed- 
ing on the hills, the towers, the old church, and a lovely 
blue sky overhead- I longed to sketch it. 

At Lausanne we stopped at the Hotel Gibbon and saw 
the garden where the great historian wrote his history. 
The view of the lake was lovely, with rocky mountains 
opposite, little towns at their feet, vineyards along the 
hillsides, and pretty boats on the lake, the water of which 
was the loveliest blue. 

To Vevay at last, a pleasant hour's sail to a very 
pleasant place. We took rooms at the Pension Victoria. 

Our landlady was an English woman who had married a 
French courier. Very kind sort of people : rooms com- 
fortable, meals good, and surroundings agreeable. Our 
fellow-boarders varied from time to time, an English 
doctor and wife, a fine old lady with them who looked 
like Marie Antoinette ; two Scotch ladies named Glennie, 
very pleasant, well-bred ladies who told me about Beattie 
who was their grandfather, and Walter Scott whom they 

knew ; Colonel and family, rebels, and very bitter 

and rude to us. Had queer times with them. 

I did not enjoy the life nor the society after the first 
novelty wore off, for I missed my freedom and grew very 
tired of the daily worry which I had to go through with. 

November. (Laurie) Took some French lessons with 
Mademoiselle Germain and learned a little, but found it 
much harder than I thought, and often got discouraged, 
I was so stupid. A. got much better, and some new 
people came. The doctor and his set left, and in their 
place came a Russian family, an Irish lady and daughter, 
and a young Pole with whom we struck up a friendship. 

Europe, and Little Women. 179 

Ladislas Wisinewski (Laurie) was very gay and agreeable, 
and being ill and much younger we petted him. He 
played beautifully, and was very anxious to learn English, 
so we taught him that and he taught us French. 

On my birthday A. gave me a pretty painting of Chillon. 
Ladislas promised me the notes of the Polish National 
Hymn, and played me his sweetest airs as a present after 
wishing me " All good and happiness on earth, and a high 
place in Heaven as my reward." It was a mild, windy 
day, very like me in its fitful changes of sunshine and 
shade. Usually I am sad on my birthday, but not this 
time ; for though nothing very pleasant happened, I was 
happy and hopeful and enjoyed everything with unusual 
relish. I feel rather old with my thirty-three years, but 
have much to keep me young, and hope I shall not grow 
older in heart as the time goes on. I thought much of 
dear father on this his sixty-sixth birthday, and missed 
the little ceremony that always takes place on these occa- 
sions. Hope I shall be safely at home before another 
November comes. 

December. Laurie very interesting and good. Pleas- 
ant walks and talks with him in the chateau garden and 
about Vevay. A lovely sail on the lake, and much fun 
giving English and receiving French lessons. Every one 
very kind, and the house quite home-like. Much inde- 
cision about going to Nice owing to the cholera. At last 
we decided to go, and started on the 6th to meet G. at 
Geneva. L. went with us to Lausanne, kissed our hands 
at parting, and went back to V. disconsolate. Sad times 
for all, but we journeyed away to Nice and tried to forget 
our troubles. A flat uninteresting country till we ap- 
proached the sea. 

Nice very pleasant, climate lovely, and sea beautiful. 
We lived in our own rooms, and saw no one but the 

i8o Louisa May Alcott. 

doctor and Consul and a few American callers. A 
pleasant drive every day on the Promenade, a wide 
curving wall along the bay with hotels and Pensions on 
one side and a flowery walk on the other. Gay car- 
riages and people always to be seen ; shops full of fine 
and curious things ; picturesque castles, towers, and walls 
on one hill ; a lighthouse on each point of the moon- 
shaped bay; boats and our fleet on the water; gar- 
dens, olive and orange-trees, queer cacti, and palms 
all about on the land ; monks, priests, soldiers, peas- 
ants, etc. 

A dull Christmas within doors, though a lovely day 
without. Windows open, roses blooming, air mild, and 
city gay. With friends, health, and a little money how 
jolly one might be in this perpetual summer. 

January, 1866. Nice. Rained all New Year's day, 
and I spent it sewing, writing, and reading an American 
newspaper which came in the morning, my only present. 
I hoped for letters but got none, and was much disap- 
pointed. A. was ill, so I had to receive in American style. 
Mr. Perkins, Cooper, and the Consul called. At dinner 
we drank the healths of all at home, and also Laddie's, in 
our bottle of champagne. 

A quiet, dull time generally, driving sometimes, walking 
little, and writing letters. Now and then I got a pleasant 
walk by myself away among the vineyards and olive-trees 
or down into the queer old city. I soon tired of the 
fashionable Promenade, for every one was on exhibition. 
Sometimes before or after the fashionable hour I walked 
there and enjoyed the sea and sky. 

A ball was given at our Pension and we went. A 
queer set, Russians, Spaniards, French, English, 
Americans, Italians, Jews, and Sandwich Islanders. They 
danced wildly, dressed gayly, and sounded as if the 

Europe, and Little Women. 181 

"confusion of tongues" was come again. A few pleas- 
ant Americans called on us, but we were very lonely and 

Decided to take an apartment No. 10 Rue Geoffredo, 
paying six hundred francs for ten weeks, six rooms, all 
large and handsome. Dr. P. got us a good maid, and 
on the i yth we went to our new quarters. Madame 
Rolande was French governess for six years to Victoria's 
children, and was a funny old party. 

Could n't sleep at all for some nights, and felt very 
poorly, for my life did n't suit me and the air was too 

Febmary. Got on excellently with our housekeeping, 
for Julie proved a treasure and we were very comfortable. 
Had many lovely drives, and saw something of Nice and 
its beauties. To Cimies, an old Franciscan monastery 
near the ruins of a Roman amphitheatre. The convent 
stands where a temple of Diana once stood, and is sur- 
rounded by ancient ilex trees. A monk in his cowl, 
brown robe, sandals, and rope girdle did the honors of 
the church, which was dark and full of bad pictures. San 
Andre with its chateau and grotto, Villa Franca in a 
lovely little bay, the wood of Var where the daisies grew, 
Valrosa, a villa in a rose garden, and the Porte were all 
interesting. Also Castle Hill, which overlooks the town. 

I decided to go home in May, though A. wants me to 
stay. I 'm tired of it, and as she is not going to travel, 
my time is too valuable to be wasted. 

The carnival occurred. Funny, but not so fine a sight 
as I expected. Also went to the theatre to see " Lady 
Tartuffe." Had a pleasant time, though I could n't un- 
derstand much. The acting was so natural and good 
that I caught the plot, and with a little telling from 
Hosmer knew what was going on. 

1 82 Louisa May Alcott. 

Wrote a little on three stories which would come into 
my head and worry me till I gave them a "vent." 

Good letters from home. All well and busy, and long- 
ing for me in the spring. 

March. A tedious month, which might have been 
quite the reverse had I been free to enjoy it in my own 
way. Read French, walked to my favorite places, and 
wrote letters when I found time. 

Went often to Valrosa, a lovely villa buried in roses. 
Got a wheeled chair and a man to draw it, then with 
books, lunch, and work, I tempted A. out into the woods, 
and we had some pleasant hours. 

April. Went to the Cathedral to see the Easter cere- 
monies. Fine music, the Gloria was sung, a Franciscan 
monk preached, the Bishop blessed every one, and was 
fussed over like a great doll. A very splendid scene. 

Saw Ristori twice, once in " Medea " and once in "Eliza- 
beth." Never saw such acting ; especially in Queen Bess, 
it was splendid, as she changes from the young, violent, 
coquettish woman to the peevish old crone dying with her 
crown on, vain, ambitious, and remorseful. 

May. On the first day of the month left A. and Nice 
and started alone for Paris, feeling as happy as a freed 

A pleasant journey, Laddie waiting for me in Paris to 
take me to my room at Madame Dyne's. A very charm- 
ing fortnight here ; the days spent in seeing sights with 
my Laddie, the evenings in reading, writing, hearing " my 
boy" play, or resting. Saw all that I wished to see in a 
very pleasant way, and on the i yth reluctantly went to 

Passed a fortnight at a lovely old place on Wimbledon 
Common with the Conways, going to town with them to 
see the lions, Royal Exhibition, Hampton Court, Kensing- 

Europe, and Little Women. 183 

ton and British Museums, Crystal Palace, and many other 
pleasant places. But none were lovelier to me than the 
old farm-house with the thatched roof, the common of 
yellow gorse, larks going up in the morning, nightingales 
flying at night, hawthorne everywhere, and Richmond 
Park full of deer close by. Also Robin Hood's barn. 

/line. Passed the first ten days of the month at 
Aubrey House with the Peter Taylors. A lovely English 
home with kind, pure, and friendly people. Saw many 
interesting persons, Miss Cobbe, Jean Ingelow, Dr. 
Garrett, Madame Bodichon, Matilde Blinde, Mill, Bright, 
Gladstone, Hughes, and the rest at the House of Com- 
mons where Mr. T. took me. 

Went to a dinner-party or two, theatres, to hear Dick- 
ens read, a concert, conversazione and receptions, seeing 
English society, or rather one class of it, and liking what 
I saw. 

On the nth went to board with Mrs. Travers in West- 
bourne Grove Terrace. A pleasant little room, plain 
living, and for society Mrs. T. and daughter, two sisters 
from Dublin, and ten young men, barristers, clerks, 
ministers, and students. A guinea a week. 

Very free and jolly, roaming about London all day, 
dining late and resting, chatting, music, or fun in the 

Saw the Tower, Windsor, Parks, Gardens, and all man- 
ner of haunts of famous men and women, Milton's house, 
Johnson's in Ball Court, Lamb's, Sairy Gamp's, Saracen's 
Head, the Charter House where Thackeray was when a 
lad, Furnival's Inn where Dickens wrote Pickwick, Bacon's 
Walk, and endless memorable sights. St. Paul's I liked 
better than Notre Dame. 

July. At Mrs. Travers's till the yth. Saw Routledge 
about "Moods." He took it, would like another book, 

184 Louisa May Alcott. 

and was very iriendly. Said good-by all round, and at 
six A. M. on the yth left for Liverpool with Mr. W., who 
saw to my luggage and went part way. Reached the 
"Africa" safely. 

A trip of fourteen stormy, dull, long, sick days, but at 
last at eleven at night we sailed up the harbor in the 
moonlight, and I saw dear John waiting for me on the 
wharf. Slept on board, and next day reached home at 
noon to find Father at the station, Nan and babies at the 
gate, May flying wildly round the lawn, and Marmee cry- 
ing at the door. Into her arms I went, and was at home 
at last. 

Happy days, talking and enjoying one another. Many 
people came to see me, and all said I was much improved ; 
of which I was glad, as there was, is, and always will be 
room for it. 

Found Mother looking old, sick, and tired ; Father as 
placid as ever ; Nan poorly, but blest in her babies ; May 
full of plans, as usual : Freddy very stout and loving ; and 
my Jack the dearest, prettiest, merriest baby boy that ever 
kissed and loved everybody. 

August. Soon fell to work on some stories, for things 
were, as I expected, behindhand when the money-maker 
was away. Found plenty to do, as orders from E., L., 
" Independent," " U. S. C. S. Magazine," and several 
other offers waited for me. Wrote two long tales for L. 
and got $200 for them. One for E. for which he paid 
$75, also a bit of poetry for $5. He wanted a long 
story in twenty-four chapters, and I wrote it in a fort- 
night, one hundred and eighty-five pages, besides 
work, sewing, nursing, and company. 

Sent S. E. S. the first $100 on my account ; could have 
sent $300, but it was needed, so I gave it up unwillingly, 
and must work away for the rest. Mother borrowed the 

Europe, and Little Women. 185 

money that I might stay longer and see England, as I had 
missed much while condemned to " hard work and soli- 
tary confinement for nine months," as she expressed it. 

September. Mother sick, did little with my pen. Got 
a girl, and devoted myself to Mother, writing after she was 
abed. In this way finished a long tale. But E. would 
not have it, saying it was too long and too sensational ! 

November. Mother slowly mending. A sensible West- 
ern woman " rubbed " her, and did her a great deal of 
good. She left her room and seemed more like herself. 
I never expect to see the strong, energetic Marmee of old 
times, but, thank the Lord ! she is still here, though pale 
and weak, quiet and sad ; all her fine hair gone, and 
face full of wrinkles, bowed back, and every sign of age. 
Life has been so hard for her, and she so brave, so glad 
to spend herself for others. Now we must live for her. 

On Miss Alcott's return from Europe in July, 
1866, she devoted herself as earnestly as ever to the 
personal care of her mother and to story-writing 
for the support of the family. She agreed to 
write a fifty-dollar tale once a month, and besides 
this wrote many short stories for other publishers. 
Her father's return from the West with two hun- 
dred dollars, earned on his western trip, gave her 
some relief; and she was cheered by hearing that 
" Moods ' was selling well in Europe. But she 
was not well, and she felt anxious and troubled 
about many things. Her journal of these months 
is very meagre; and January, 1867, opens with the 
statement that she is " sick from too hard work." 
Yet the account of stories furnished to publishers 
continues till August, when she went to Clark's 
Island for a few weeks of recreation. Here her 

1 86 Louisa May Alcctt. 

spirits returned, and she spent, as she says, " a 
harem-scarem fortnight," which must have given her 
great refreshment. She says: " Got to work again 
after my long vacation, for bills accumulate and 
worry me. I dread debt more than anything." 

In the journal occurs this slight notice of the 
first step in one of the most important achieve- 
ments of her life, of which I shall speak more fully 


September, 1867. Niles, partner of Roberts, asked 
me to write a girls' book. Said I 'd try. 

F. asked me to be the editor of " Merry's Museum." 
Said I 'd try. 

Began at once on both new jobs ; but did n't like 

The Radical Club met at Sargent's. Fine time. 
Bartol inspired ; Emerson chairman ; Alcott on his legs ; 
strong-minded ladies out in full force ; aesthetic tea for 

October. Agreed with F. to be editor for $500 a 
year. Read manuscripts, write one story each month and 
an editorial. On the strength of this engagement went 
to Boston, took a room No. 6 Hayward Place fur- 
nished it, and set up housekeeping for myself. Cannot 
keep well in C., so must try Boston, and not work too 

On the 28th rode to B. on my load of furniture with 
Fred, feeling as if I was going to camp out in a new coun- 
try ; hoped it would prove a hospitable and healthy 

This incident appears in " The Old-fashioned 

Europe, and Little Women. 187 

Girl" (p. 153), where the country girl goes into 
the city in a farmer's cart, with a squash pie in 
her hand given her at parting by an old friend. 
Her sister May had a drawing class at her room 
every day, which gave Louisa the pleasure of 

Miss Alcott was an enthusiastic admirer of 
Dickens, and she entered into the humor of his 
homely characters most heartily. She acted " Mrs. 
Jarley displaying her waxwork' nine times this 
winter, and was always successful in giving life and 
variety to the representation. She was constantly 
called upon to act for charity. She enjoyed the 
fun. and as she could not give money, it satisfied 
her generous nature to be able to help in any way. 

She wrote an article for Mr. B., called " Happy 
Women," in which she gratified her love of single 
life by describing the delightful spinsters of her ac- 
quaintance. Her sketches are all taken from life, 
and are not too highly colored. The Physician, 
the Artist, the Philanthropist, the Actress, the 
Lawyer, are easily recognizable. They were a 
" glorious phalanx of old maids," as Theodore 
Parker called the single women of his Society, 
who aided him so much in his work. 

To her Mother. 

JANUARY, 1868. 

Things look promising for the new year. F. $20 for 
the little tales, and wrote two every month; G. $25 for 
the " Bells ; ' L. $100 for the two "Proverb" stories. 
L. takes all I '11 send ; and F. seems satisfied. 

So my plan will work well, and I shall make my $1,000 

1 88 Louisa May Alcott. 

this year in spite of sickness and worry. Praise the Lord 
and keep busy, say I. 

I am pretty well, and keep so busy I have n't time to 
be sick. Every one is very clever to me ; and I often 
think as I go larking round, independent, with more work 
than I can do, and half-a-duzen publishers asking for 
tales, of the old times when I went meekly from door to 
door peddling my first poor little stories, and feeling so 
rich with $10. 

It 's clear that Minerva Moody is getting on, in spite of 
many downfalls, and by the time she is a used up old lady 
of seventy or so she may finish her job, and see her family 
well off. A little late to enjoy much may be ; but I guess 
I shall turn in for my last long sleep with more content, in 
spite of the mortal weariness, than if I had folded my hands 
and been supported in elegant idleness, or gone to the 
devil in fits of despair because things moved so slowly. 

Keep all the money I send ; pay up every bill ; get 
comforts and enjoy yourselves. Let 's be merry while we 
may, and lay up a bit for a rainy day. 

With which gem from Aristotle, I am, honored Madam, 
your dutiful and affectionate L. M. ALCOTT. 

Regards to Plato. Don't he want new socks? Are 
his clothes getting shiny ? 

Although, as I have said, little direct European 
influence is observable in Miss Alcott's writings 
from her journeys in Europe, yet this first visit had 
a marked effect upon her life and writings. She 
was unfavorably situated to gain the refreshment 
she sorely needed ; and yet she did get a great deal 
from the entire change of surroundings, from the 
larger horizon into which she entered, from her 
rich enjoyment of scenery, and from the variety 

Europe ', and Little Women. 189 

of companions she met. Probably she looked 
through new spectacles at her own work, as she de- 
scribes herself as looking through those of Professor 
Bhaer, and she saw all the defects of the pot-boiling 
stories which she had been pouring out one after > 
another, without strong purpose, or regard for ar- 
tistic excellence. She had also the chance to look 
upon her own early life and home from a distance; 
and as she thought of the incidents of those years 
they grouped into more harmonious lines, and she 
saw how much they contained of real life, of true 
poetry and humor, as well as moral significance. 
So the old idea of " The Pathetic Family ' took 
shape anew in her mind. 

In July, 1863, the enterprising firm of Roberts 
Brothers asked her for the publication in book 
form of " Hospital Sketches," which were then ap- 
pearing in the " Commonwealth " newspaper, being 
struck by their intense reality and originality. At 
the time, as she states in her journal, she preferred 
to allow Mr. Redpath to publish them. Later, in 
September, 1867, Roberts Brothers asked her to 
write a girls' book for them, and in May, 1868, 
they repeated the request through her father, who 
had brought to them a collection of short stories 
for publication. 

Miss Alcott's fancy had always been for depict- 
ing the life of boys rather than girls ; but she fort- 
unately took the suggestion of the publisher, and 
said, like Ethan Allen, " I '11 try, sir." The old idea 
of " The Pathetic Family " recurred to her mind; 
and she set herself to describe the early life of her 
home. The book was finished in July, named 

190 Louisa May Alcott. 

" Little Women," and sent to the publishers, who 
promptly accepted it, making Miss Alcott an out- 
right offer for the copyright, but at the same time 
advising her not to part with it. It was published 
in October, and the result is well known. She was 
quite unconscious of the unusual merit of the book, 
thinking, as she says, the first chapters dull, and so 
was quite surprised at her success. " It reads bet- 
ter than I expected," she says ; and she truly adds, 
" We really lived most of it, and if it succeeds, that 
will be the reason of it." 

But that is not the whole secret of its success. 
Through many trials and many failures Louisa 
had learned her literary art. By her experience in 
melodrama she had proved the emptiness of sensa- 
tional writing, and knew how to present the simple 
and true, seemingly without art, but really with 
the nicest art of discrimination and emphasis. All 
her previous training and experience were needed 
to fit her for the production of her masterpiece ; 
for in spite of all the good work she did later, this 
remains her masterpiece, by which she will be re- 
membered and loved. Already twenty-one years 
have passed, and another generation has come up 
since she published this book, yet it still commands 
a steady sale ; and the mothers who read it in their 
childhood renew their enjoyment as they watch the 
faces of their little girls brighten with smiles over 
the theatricals in the barn, or moisten with tears at 
the death of the beloved sister. One of the great- 
est charms of the book is its perfect truth to New 
England life. But it is not merely local ; it touches 
the universal heart deeply. 

Europe, and Little Women. 191 

The excitement of the children was intense; 
they claimed the author as their own property, and 
felt as if she were interpreting their very lives and 
thoughts. The second series was anticipated with 
the eagerness of a bulletin from the war and the 
stock market. But unlike Miss Alcott herself, the 
children took especial interest in the love-story, 
and when poor Laurie was so obstinately refused 
by Jo, "they wept aloud, and refused to be com- 
forted," and in some instances were actually made 
ill by grief and excitement. 

Miss Alcott had now secured publishers in 
whom she placed perfect confidence, and who 
henceforth relieved her of the worry of business 
matters, dealing directly and fairly by her, and 
consulting her interests as well as their own. This 
is abundantly shown by her private journals and 

The success of " Little Women " was so well 
assured that Miss Alcott at once set about prepar- 
ing the second part, which was eagerly demanded 
by the little women outside, who wanted all the 
girls to marry, and rather troubled her by wishing 
to settle matters their own way. She finished 
writing the sequel, which had been rapid work, 
Jan. i, 1869. 

The success of "Little Women' 11 was not con- 
fined to this country. The book was translated 
into French, German, and Dutch, and has become 
familiarly known in England and on the Continent. 
In Holland the first series was published under the 
title " Under the Mother's Wings," and the second 
part as " On Their Own Wings; " and these two 

192 Louisa May Alcott. 

books with " Work " established her fame among 
the children, who still continue to read her stories 
with fresh delight. 

It is hardly necessary to analyze or criticise this 
happy production. It is a realistic transcript of 
life, but idealized by the tenderness of real feeling. 
It teaches the lessons of every-day conduct and 
inculcates the simplest virtues of truth, earnest 
effort, and loving affection. There is abundant 
humor, but no caricature, and tender, deep feeling 
without sentimentality. 

Miss Alcott herself did not wish her representa- 
tive, Jo, to marry; but the demand of the publisher 
and the public was so imperative that she created 
her German professor, of whom no prototype ex- 
isted. While some of her romantic young readers 
were not satisfied at Jo's preferring him to the 
charming Laurie, he is certainly a genuine, warm- 
hearted man, who would probably have held her 
affections by his strong moral and intellectual traits. 
That he became a very living personality to the 
author is evident from his reappearance in " Jo's 
Boys," where he has the same strong, cheery influ- 
ence in the school and home that she found from 
him in her girlhood. The style of the book is 
thoroughly easy and colloquial; and the girls talk 
and act like girls, and not like prim little women. 
The influence of the book has been wide and 
deep, and has helped to make a whole generation 
of girls feel a deeper sense of family love and 
the blessings to be gained from lives of earnest 
effort, mutual sacrifice, and high aims. 

Much interest has been expressed in regard to 

Europe, and Little Women. 193 

the originals of the characters in " Little Women." 
This is the author's own statement: 

Facts in the stones that are true, though often changed 
as to time and place : 

" Little Women " The early plays and experiences ; 
Beth's death ; Jo's literary and Amy's artistic experiences ; 
Meg's happy home ; John Brooke and his death ; Demi's 
character. Mr. March did not go to the war, but Jo did. 
Mrs. March is all true, only not- half good enough. 
Laurie is not an American boy, though every lad I ever 
knew claims the character. He was a Polish boy, met 
abroad in 1865. ^ r> Lawrence is my grandfather, 
Colonel Joseph May. Aunt March is no one. 


January, 1868. Gamp's Garret, Hay ward PLice, 
Boston. The year begins well and cheerfully for us 
all. Father and Mother comfortable at home ; Anna 
and family settled in Chelsea ; May busy with her draw- 
ing classes, of which she has five or six, and the prospect 
of earning $150 a quarter; also she is well and in goo 1 

I am in my little room, spending busy, happy days, 
because I have quiet, freedom, work enough, and 
strength to do it. F. pays me $500 a year for my name 
and some editorial work on Merry's Museum ; " The 
Youth's Companion ' pays $20 for two short tales each 
month; L. $50 and $100 for all I will send him; and 
others take anything I have. My way seems clear for 
the year if I can only keep well. I want to realize 
my dream of supporting the family and being perfectly 
independent. Heavenly hope ! 

194 Louisa May Alcott. 

I have written twenty-five stories the past year, besides 
the fairy book containing twelve. Have earned $1,000, 
paid my own way, sent home some, paid up debts, and 
helped May. 

For many years we have not been so comfortable : 
May and I both earning, Annie with her good John to 
lean on, and the old people in a cosey home of our own. 

After last winter's hard experience, we cannot be too 

To-day my first hyacinth bloomed, white and sweet, 
a good omen, a little flag of truce, perhaps, from the 
enemies whom we have been fighting all these years. 
Perhaps we are to win after all, and conquer poverty, 
neglect, pain, and debt, and march on with flags flying 
into the new world with the new year. 

Thursday, ith. A queer day. Up early, and had 
my bread and milk and baked apples. Fed my doves. 
Made May a bonnet, and cut out a flannel wrapper for 
Marmee, who feels the cold in the Concord snowbanks. 
Did my editorial work in the p. M., and fixed my dresses 
for the plays. L. sent $50, and F. $40, for tales. A. 
and boys came. 

To Dorchester in evening, and acted Mrs. Pontifex, in 
" Naval Engagements," to a good house. A gay time, 
had flowers, etc. Talked half the night with H. A. about 
the fast ways of young people nowadays, and gave the 
child much older-sisterly advice, as no one seems to see 
how much she needs help at this time of her young life. 

Dreamed that I was an opera dancer, and waked up 

Wednesday, \$th. Wrote all day. Did two short 
tales for F. In the evening with A. M. to hear Fanny 
Kemble read "The Merchant of Venice." She was a 
whole stock company in herself. Looked younger and 

Europe, and Little Women. 195 

handsomer than ever before, and happy, as she is to be 
with her daughters now. We went to supper afterwards 
at Mrs. Parkman's, and saw the lioness feed. It was a 
study to watch her face, so full of varying expression 
was it, always strong, always sweet, then proud and 
fierce as she sniffed at nobodies who passed about her. 
Being one, I kept away, and enjoyed the great creature 
afar off, wondering how a short, stout, red woman could 
look so like a queen in her purple velvet and point lace. 

Slipped behind a door, but Dr. Holmes found me 
out, and affably asked, " How many of you children are 
there?' As I was looking down on the top of his illus- 
trious head, the question was funny. But I answered 
the little man with deep respect, " Four, sir." He 
seemed to catch my naughty thought, and asked, with 
a twinkle in his eye, looking up as if I were a steeple, 
"And all as tall as you?" Ha! ha! 

iS///. Played again at D., and had a jolly time. 
Home early, and putting off my fine feathers, fell to 
work on my stories. F. seems to expect me to write the 
whole magazine, which I did not bargain for. 

To Nan's in p. M., to take care of her while the Papa 
and Freddie went to C. The dear little man, so happy 
and important with his bit of a bag, six pennies, and a 
cake for refreshment during the long journey of an hour. 

We brooded over Johnny as if he were a heavenly 
sort of fire to warm and comfort us with his sunny little 
face and loving ways. She is a happy woman ! I sell 
my children ; and though they feed me, they don't love 
me as hers do. 

Little Tranquillity played alone all day, and made a 
pretty picture sitting in "marmar's" lap in his night-gown, 
talking through the trumpet to her. She never heard his 
sweet little voice in any other way. Poor Nan ! 

196 Louisa May Alcott. 

Wednesday, 22^. To the Club with Father. A good 
paper on the " Historical View of Jesus." Father spoke 
finely. It amuses me to see how people listen and ap- 
plaud now what was hooted at twenty years ago. 

The talk lasted until two, and then the hungry phi- 
losophers remembered they had bodies and rushed away, 
still talking. 

[Hard to feed. L. M. A. ] 

Got a snow-slide on my bonnet, so made another in the 
p. M., and in the evening to the Antislavery Festival. All 
the old faces and many new ones. Glad I have lived in 
the time of this great movement, and known its heroes 
so well. War times suit me, as I am a righting May. 

24/7*. My second hyacinth bloomed pale blue, like a 
timid hope, and I took the omen for a good one, as I 
am getting on, and have more than I can do of the work 
that I once went begging for. Enjoyed the little spring 
my little flower made for me, and Buzzy, my pet fly, 
moved into the sweet mansion from his hanging garden 
in the ivy pot. 

Acted in Cambridge, Lucretia Buzzard and Mrs. 

Sunday, 31^. Last day of the month, but I'm not 
satisfied with my four weeks' work. Acting for charity 
upsets my work. The change is good for me, and so I 
do it, and because I have no money to give. 

Four tales this month. Received $70 ; sent $30 
home. No debts. 

February \st. Arranged "Hospital Sketches and 
War Stories " for a book. By taking out all Biblical 
allusions, and softening all allusions to rebs., the book 
may be made "quite perfect," I am told. Anything to 
suit customers. 

Europe, and Little Women. 197 

Friday, 14^/1. My third hyacinth bloomed this A.M., 
a lovely pink. So I found things snug, and had a busy 

day chasing who dodged. Then I wrote my tales. 

Made some shirts for my boys, and went out to buy 
a squash pie for my lonely supper. It snowed ; was 
very cold. No one paid, and I wanted to send some 
money home. Felt cross and tired as I trudged back 
at dusk. My pie turned a somersault, a boy laughed, 
so did I, and felt better. On my doorstep I found a 
gentleman who asked if Miss A. lived here. I took 
him up my winding stair and found him a very delight- 
ful fly, for he handed me a letter out of which fell a 
$100 bill. With this bait Mr. B. lured me to write "one 
column of Advice to Young Women," as Mrs. Shaw 
and others were doing. If he had asked me for a 
Greek oration I would have said " yes." So I gave a 
receipt, and the very elegant agent bowed himself away, 
leaving my " 'umble " bower full of perfume, and my soul 
of peace. 

Thriftily taking advantage of the enthusiastic moment, 
I planned my article while I ate my dilapidated pie, and 
then proceeded to write it with the bill before me. It 
was about old maids. " Happy Women" was the title, 
and I put in my list all the busy, useful, independent 
spinsters I know, for liberty is a better husband than love 
to many of us. This was a nice little episode in my 
trials of an authoress, so I record it. 

So the pink hyacinth was a true prophet, and I went 
to bed a happy millionaire, to dream of flannel petticoats 
for my blessed Mother, paper for Father, a new dress for 
May, and sleds for my boys. 

Monday, i^f/i. Father came full of plans about his 
book. Went with him to the Club. P. read a paper, 
and the Rabbi Nathan talked. A curious jumble of 

198 Louisa May Alcott. 

fools and philosophers. The Club should be kept more 
select, and not be run by one person. 

Tuesday, 2$th. Note from Lady Amberly as I sat 
sewing on my ninepenny dress. She wanted to come 
and see me, and I told her to do so, and I 'd show her 
how I lived in my sky-parlor, spinning yarns like a 
spider. Met her at the Club, and liked her, so simple 
and natural. 

Acted for Mr. Clarke's Church Fair in the evening. 
Did Mrs. Jarley three times. Very hoarse with a cold, 
but kept my promise. 

" Proverb Stories" suggested, and " Kitty's Class-Day" 

Friday, 28//z. Packed for home, as I am needed 
there, and acted Jarley for the third evening. Have 
done it nine times this week, and my voice is gone. 

I am sorry to leave my quiet room, for I Ve enjoyed 
it very much. 

Written eight long tales, ten short ones, read stacks of 
manuscripts, and done editorial work. Acted for charity 
twelve times. 

Not a bad two months' work. I can imagine an easier 
life, but with love, health, and work I can be happy ; for 
these three help one to do, to be, and to endure all 

March, April, and May. Had the pleasure of pro- 
viding Marmee with many comforts, and keeping the 
hounds of care and debt from worrying her. She sits 
at rest in her sunny room, and that is better than any 
amount of fame "to me. 

May, 1868. Father saw Mr. Niles about a fairy 
book. Mr. N. wants a girls' story, and I begin " Little 
Women." Marmee, Anna, and May all approve my 
plan. So I plod away, though I don't enjoy this sort 

Europe, and Little Women. 199 

of thing. Never liked girls or knew many, except my 
sisters ; but our queer plays and experiences may prove 
interesting, though I doubt it. 

[Good joke. L. M. A.] 

June. Sent twelve chapters of "L. W." to Mr. N. 
He thought it dull; so do I. But work away and mean 
to try the experiment ; for lively, simple books are very 
much needed for girls, and perhaps I can supply the 

Wrote two tales for Ford, and one for F. L. clamors 
for more, but must wait. 

July i$t/i. Have finished "Little Women," and sent 
it off, 402 pages. May is designing some pictures for 
it. Hope it will go, for I shall probably get nothing for 
"Morning Glories." 

Very tired, head full of pain from overwork, and heart 
heavy about Marmee, who is growing feeble. 

[Too much work for one young woman. No wonder she 
broke down. 1876. L. M. A.] 

August. Roberts Bros, made an offer for the story, 
but at the same time advised me to keep the copyright ; 
so I shall. 

[An honest publisher and a lucky author, for the copy- 
right made her fortune, and the " dull book " was the first 
golden egg of the ugly duckling. 1885. --L. M. A.] 

August 26th. Proof of whole book came. It reads 
better than I expected. Not a bit sensational, but simple 
and true, for we really lived most of it ; and if it suc- 
ceeds that will be the reason of it. Mr. N. likes it better 
now, and says some girls who have read the manuscripts 
say it is " splendid ! ' As it is for them, they are the 
best critics, so I should be satisfied. 

2OO Louisa May Alcott. 

September. Father's book ["Tablets"] came out. 
Very simple outside, wise and beautiful within. Hope it 
will bring him praise and profit, for he has waited long. 

No girl, Mother poorly, May busy with pupils, Nan 
with her boys, and much work to be done. We don't 
like the kitchen department, and our tastes and gifts lie 
in other directions, so it is hard to make the various 
Pegasuses pull the plan steadily. 

October 8//i. Marmee's birthday; sixty-eight. After 
breakfast she found her gifts on a table in the study. 
Father escorted her to the big red chair, the boys 
prancing before blowing their trumpets, while we "girls" 
marched behind, glad to see the dear old Mother better 
and able to enjoy our little fete. The boys proudly 
handed her the little parcels, and she laughed and cried 
over our gifts and verses. 

I feel as if the decline had begun for her ; and each 
year will add to the change which is going on, as time 
alters the energetic, enthusiastic home-mother into a 
gentle, feeble old woman, to be cherished and helped 
tenderly down the long hill she has climbed so bravely 
with her many burdens. 

October 26th. --Came to Boston, and took a quiet 
room in Brookline Street. Heard Emerson in the even- 
ing. Sent a report of it to A. P. for the "Standard " at 
his desire. 

Anna is nicely settled in her new house, and Marmee 
is with her. Helped put down carpets and settle things. 

30//z. Saw Mr. N. of Roberts Brothers, and he gave 
me good news of the book. An order from London for 
an edition came in. First edition gone and more called 
for. Expects to sell three or four thousand before the 
New Year. 

Mr. N. wants a second volume for spring. Pleasant 

j and Little Women. 201 

notices and letters arrive, and much interest in my 
little women, who seem to find friends by their truth 
to life, as I hoped. 

November \st. Began the second part of " Little 
Women." I can do a chapter a day, and in a month 
I mean to be done. A little success is so inspiring that 
I now find my " Marches " sober, nice people, and as I 
can launch into the future, my fancy has more play. 
Girls write to ask who the little women marry, as if that 
was the only end and aim of a woman's life. I won't 
marry Jo to Laurie to please any one. 

Monday, i6///. To the Club for a change, as I have 
written like a steam engine since the ist. Weiss read a 
fine paper on "Woman Suffrage." Good talk afterward. 
Lunched with Kate Field, Celia Thaxter, and Mr. Linton. 
Woman's Club in p. M. 

iy//2. Finished my thirteenth chapter. I am so full 
of my work, I can't stop to eat or sleep, or for anything 
but a daily run. 

29/7*. My birthday; thirty-six. Spent alone, writ- 
ing hard. No presents but Father's "Tablets." 

I never seem to have many presents, as some do, 
though I give a good many. That is best perhaps, and 
makes a gift very precious when it does come. 

December. Home to shut up the house, as Father 
goes West and Mother to Anna's. A cold, hard, dirty 
time ; but was so glad to be off out of C. that I worked 
like a beaver, and turned the key on Apple Slump with 

May and I went to the new Bellevue Hotel in Beacon 

Street. She does n't enjoy quiet corners as I do, so we 
took a sky-parlor, and had a queer time whisking up and 
down in the elevator, eating in a marble cafe", and sleeping 
on a sofa bed, that we might be genteel. It did not suit 

2O2 Louisa May Alcott. 

me at all. A great gale nearly blew the roof off. Steam 
pipes exploded, and we were hungry. I was very tired 
with my hard summer, with no rest for the brains that 
earn the money. 

January, 1869. Left our lofty room at Bellevue and 
went to Chauncey Street. Sent the sequel of " L. W." 
to Roberts on New Year's Day. Hope it will do as well 
as the first, which is selling finely, and receives good 
notices. F. and F. both want me to continue working 
for them, and I shall do so if I am able ; but my head- 
aches, cough, and weariness keep me from working as I 
once could, fourteen hours a day. 

In March we went home, as Mother was restless at 
Nan's, and Father wanted his library. Cold and dull ; 
not able to write ; so took care of Marmee and tried to 

Paid up all the debts, thank the Lord ! every penny 
that money can pay, and now I feel as if I could die 
in peace. My dream is beginning to come true ; and if 
my head holds out I '11 do all I once hoped to do. 

April. Very poorly. Feel quite used up. Don't 
care much for myself, as rest is heavenly even with pain ; 
but the family seem so panic-stricken and helpless when 
I break down, that I try to keep the mill going. Two 
short tales for L., $50; two for Ford, $20; and did 
my editorial work, though two months are unpaid for. 
Roberts wants a new book, but am afraid to get into a 
vortex lest I fall ill. 

To her Publishers. 

BOSTON, Dec. 28, 1869. 

Many thanks for the check which made my Christmas 
an unusually merry one. 

After toiling so many years along the uphill road, 

Europe, and Little Women. 203 

always a hard one to women writers, it is peculiarly 
grateful to me to find the way growing easier at last, with 
pleasant little surprises blossoming on either side, and 
the rough places made smooth by the courtesy and kind- 
ness of those who have proved themselves friends as well 
as publishers. 

With best wishes for the coming year, 

I am yours truly, L. M. ALCOTT. 

AUGUST, 1871. 

DEAR MR. NILES, Many thanks for the fortune and 
the kind note accompanying it. Please hand the money 
to S. E. S., and he will put it somewhere for me. . . . 

You are very kind to find a minute out of your hurried 
day to attend to this affair. . . . I 'm not sure but I shall 
try Dr. B. if my present and ninth doctor fails to cure my 
aching bones. I have n't a bit of faith in any of them ; 
but my friends won't let me gently slip away where bones 
cease from troubling, so I must keep trying. 

Very gratefully your friend, L. M. A. 

Written in 1871, just after the publication of 

" Little Men": 

AUGUST 5th. 

DEAR MR. NILES, Thanks for the parcel and notes. 

. . . The letters were very gushing from Nellie and 
Dollie and Sallie Somebody asking for pictures, auto- 
graphs, family history, and several new books right away. 

I must give Dr. R. a fair trial, and if he fails I '11 try 
Dr. B., just to make up the number of doctors to a 
round ten. 

" Happy Thoughts ' is very funny, especially the trip 
to Antwerp. 

Yours truly, L. M. A. 




LONG ago in a poultry yard 

One dull November morn, 
Beneath a motherly soft wing 

A little goose was born. 

Who straightway peeped out of the shell 

To view the world beyond, 
Longing at once to sally forth 

And paddle in the pond. 

" Oh ! be not rash," her father said, 

A mild Socratic bird ; 
Her mother begged her not to stray 

With many a warning word. 

But little goosey was perverse, 

And eagerly did cry, 
" I 've got a lovely pair of wings, 

Of course I ought to fly." 

In vain parental cacklings, 

In vain the cold sky's frown, 
Ambitious goosey tried to soar, 

But always tumbled down. 

The farm-yard jeered at her attempts, 
The peacocks screamed, " Oh fie ! 

You 're only a domestic goose, 
So don't pretend to fly." 

Great cock-a-doodle from his perch 
Crowed daily loud and clear, . 

" Stay in the puddle, foolish bird, 
That is your proper sphere." 

Europe. 205 

The ducks and hens said, one and all, 

In gossip by the pool, 
" Our children never play such pranks ; 

My dear, that fowl 's a fool." 

The owls came out and flew about, 

Hooting above the rest, 
" No useful egg was ever hatched 

From transcendental nest." 

Good little goslings at their play 

And well-conducted chicks 
Were taught to think poor goosey's flights 

Were naughty, ill-bred tricks. 

They were content to swim and scratch, 

And not at all inclined 
For any wild-goose chase in search 

Of something undefined. 

Hard times she had as one may guess, 

That young aspiring bird, 
Who still from every fall arose 

Saddened but undeterred. 

She knew she was no nightingale, 

Yet spite of much abuse, 
She longed to help and cheer the world, 
Although a plain gray goose. 

She could not sing, she could not fly, 

Nor even walk with grace, 
And all the farm-yard had declared 

A puddle was her place. 

But something stronger than herself 

Would cry, " Go on, go on ! 
Remember, though an humble fowl, 

You 're cousin to a swan." 

So up and down poor goosey went, 

A busy, hopeful bird. 
Searched many wide unfruitful fields, 

And many waters stirred. 

At length she came unto a stream 

Most fertile of all Niles, 
Where tuneful birds might soar and sing 

Among the leafy isles. 

206 Louisa May Alcott. 

Here did she build a little nest 

Beside the waters still, 
Where the parental goose could rest 

Unvexed by any bill. 

And here she paused to smooth her plumes, 

Ruffled by many plagues ; 
When suddenly arose the cry, 

"This goose lays golden eggs." 

At once the farm-yard was agog ; 

The ducks began to quack ; 
Prim Guinea fowls relenting called, 

" Come back, come back, come back." 

Great chanticleer was pleased to give 

A patronizing crow, 
And the contemptuous biddies clucked, 

" I wish my chicks did so." 

The peacocks spread their shining tails, 

And cried in accents soft, 
" We want to know you, gifted one, 

Come up and sit aloft." 

Wise owls awoke and gravely said, 
With proudly swelling breasts, 

" Rare birds have always been evoked 
From transcendental nests ! " 

News-hunting turkeys from afar 

Now ran with all thin legs 
To gobble facts and fictions of 

The goose with golden eggs. 

But best of all the little fowls 

Still playing on the shore, 
Soft downy chicks and goslings gay, 

Chirped out, " Dear Goose, lay more." 

But goosey all these weary years 

Had toiled like any ant, 
And wearied out she now replied, 

" My little dears, I can't. 

" When I was starving, half this corn 

Had been of vital use, 
Now I am surfeited with food 

Like any Strasbourg goose." 

Europe. 207 

So to escape too many friends, 

Without uncivil strife, 
She ran to the Atlantic pond 

And paddled for her life. 

Soon up among the grand old Alps 
She found two blessed things, 

The health she had so nearly lost, 
And rest for weary limbs. 

But still across the briny deep 
4 Couched in most friendly words, 
Came prayers for letters, tales, or verse, 
From literary birds. 

Whereat the renovated fowl 
With grateful thanks profuse, 

Took from her wing a quill and wrote 
This lay of a Golden Goose. 

BEX, SWITZERLAND, August, 1870. 

THE year 1869 was less fruitful in work than 
the preceding one. Miss Alcott spent the 
winter in Boston and the summer in Concord. 
She was ill and very tired, and felt little inclined 
for mental effort. " Hospital Sketches," which 
had been first published by Redpath, was now re- 
published by Roberts Brothers, with the addition 
of six shorter " Camp and Fireside Stories." The 
interest of the public in either the author or the 
work had not lessened ; for two thousand copies 
of the book in its new form were sold the first 
week. In her weary condition she finds her celeb- 
rity rather a burden than a pleasure, and says in 
her journal : 

People begin to come and stare at the Alcotts. Re- 
porters haunt the place to look at the authoress, who 

208 Louisa May Alcott. 

dodges into the woods a la Hawthorne, and won't be 
even a very small lion. 

Refreshed my soul with Goethe, ever strong and fine 
and alive. Gave S. E. S. $200 to invest. What rich- 
ness to have a little not needed ! 

Miss Alcott had some pleasant refreshment in 
travelling during the summer. 

July. ... Spent in Canada with my cousins, the 
Frothinghams, at their house at Riviere du Loup, a 
little village on the St. Lawrence, full of queer people. 
Drove, read, and walked with the little ones. A pleasant, 
quiet time. 

Aiigust. . . A month with May at Mt. Desert. 
A gay time, and a little rest and pleasure before the old 
pain and worry began again. 

Made up $1,000 for S. E. S. to invest. Now I have 
$1,200 for a rainy day, and no debts. With that thought 
I can bear neuralgia gayly. 

In the autumn the whole family went to Boston, 
the father and mother staying with Mrs. Pratt; 
while Louisa and her sister May, " the workers," 
occupied rooms in Pinckney Street. Not being 
well enough to do much new work, Louisa began 
using up her old stones, and found that the little 
women " helped their rejected sisters to good 
places where once they went a-begging." In 
January, 1870, she suffered from loss of voice, 
for which she tried "heroic treatment" under a 
distinguished physician. She got well enough to 
write a little, and in February wrote the conclusion 
to " The Old-fashioned Girl," which was published 
in March. She says : 

Europe. 209 

I wrote it with left hand in a sling, one foot up, head 
aching, and no voice. Yet, as the book is funny, people 
will say, " Did n't you enjoy doing it? ' I often think of 
poor Tom Hood as I scribble, rather than lie and groan. 
I certainly earn my living by the sweat of my brow. 

The book does not reveal this condition ; for 
nothing could be fresher, brighter, and more 
wholesome than the heroine Polly, many of whose 
adventures are drawn from the author's own ex- 
perience. She steps out of her usual surroundings 
into the fashionable life of the city, but betrays 
her own want of sympathy with it. The book has 
always been very popular. 

In 1870, the success of " Hospital Sketches " and 
the continued receipts from " Little Women" put 
their author in a pecuniary position which enabled 
her to go abroad for the rest and refreshment which 
she sorely needed. The younger sister was invited 
to go by her friend A. B. on condition that Louisa 
would accompany them. This journey was very 
free and independent. She has given an account 
somewhat travestied certainly, but very true to 
the general facts in " Shawl Straps," although 
the reader would hardly suppose the old lady de- 
scribed in that book had not yet reached her 
fortieth year. These sketches were arranged after 
her return, at the request of Mrs. Stowe, for the 
" Christian Union," and were published in a book 
forming one volume of " Aunt Jo's Scrap-Bag" in 

Fortunately we have many of Louisa's original 
letters preserved in her father's copies, which have 



2IO Louisa May Alcott. 

escaped the destruction of her correspondence. 
With some extracts from her journals, they give 
a sufficient account of this journey. In many re- 
spects the contrast to her former visit to Europe is 
most pleasant. She has now become pecuniarily in- 
dependent by her own exertions, and has a popular 
reputation which brings her \velcome and recogni- 
tion wherever she goes. But she has paid a heavy 
price for these gains. Her health has become seri- 
ously shattered. The long application to writing, 
sometimes even for fourteen hours a day, a pres- 
sure of excitement which kept her from eating and 
sleeping, added to sorrow and anxiety, have told 
upon her nerves and strength, and she is often un- 
fitted to enjoy the pleasures which are open to her. 
Yet her journal and letters are as full of wit and 
humor as ever; and she laid up stores of pleasant 
memories which lasted her through life. Readers 
of " Shawl Straps " will recognize the originals of 
those bright sketches in the series of letters from 

Second Trip to Europe. 

April. ... On the first day of the month (fit day 
for my undertaking I thought) May and I went to N. Y. 
to meet A. B., with John for escort. Every one very kind. 
Thirty gifts, a parting ball among our house- mates, and 
a great cake. Half-a-dozen devoted beings at the station 
to see us off. But I remember only Father and Mother 
as they went away the day before, leaving the two am- 
bitious daughters to sail away, perhaps forever. 

Marmee kept up bravely, and nodded and smiled ; but 
at the corner I saw the white handkerchief go up to the 

Europe. 211 

eyes, after being gayly waved to us. May and I broke 
down, and said, " We won't go ; ' but next day we set 
forth, as young birds will, and left the nest empty for a 

Sailed on the 2d in a gale of wind in the French 
steamer " Lafayette " for Brest. Our adventures are told 
in "Shawl Straps." 

" O. F. G." came out in March, and sold well. Train- 
boy going to N. Y. put it into my lap ; and when I said 
I did n't care for it, exclaimed with surprise, 

" Bully book, ma'am ! Sell a lot ; better have it." 

John told him I wrote it ; and his chuckle, stare, and 
astonished " No ! " was great fun. On the steamer little 
girls had it, and came in a party to call on me, very sea- 
sick in my berth, done up like a mummy. 

Spent some charming weeks in Brittany. 

June and July. " O. F. G." was published in Lon- 
don by Sampson Low & Co. We left Dinan on the 
1 5 th, and had a lovely trip through France to Vevay and 

Talk of war between France and Prussia. 

Much excitement at Vevay. Refugees from Lyons 
come in. Isabella and Don Carlos were there, with 
queer followers. 

September. ... On the 3d came news of the Em- 
peror's surrender. Great wailing among the French here. 
All well at home. Books going finely ; no debts. 

We decide to go to Rome for the winter, as May pines 
for the artist's Paradise ; and war will not trouble us I 

SHIP " LAFAYETTE," April 9, 1870. 

DEAREST MARMEE, To-morrow we come to our long 
journey's end [Brest, France], thank the Lord. It has 
been a good one on the whole, and I have got along 

212 Louisa May Alcott. 

as well as I expected. But it is tiresome to be day after 
day doing nothing ; for my head will not let me read. 
May has done well, and has been very kind to me and 
good, and is the life of the table, I guess. I never go up 
to meals, for Marie takes such good care of me ; I lie 
and peck all sorts of funny messes, and receive calls in my 
den. People seem to think we are " guns," and want to 
know us ; but as they are not interesting, we are on the 
reserve, and it has a fine effect. About three thousand 
miles away does not seem possible in so little while. 
How do you all get along, Marmee, Father, the laddies, 
my lass, and dear old John? He was so good and kind 
all the way I had no care or worry, but just lopped round 
and let him do all the work. Bless the dear ! 

I shall despatch a good long letter as soon as we ar- 
rive and have something to tell. We send this to ease 
your mind. Letters here are not prepaid, so pay for 
mine out of my money. Don't forget to tell the post- 
master in Boston about my letters. 

Bless you all, says your Lu. 

MORLAIX, April 14, 1870. 

DEAREST MARMEE, Having got our " poise " a bit by 
a day and night on land, I begin at once to scribble to 
you, as I mean to keep a letter on hand all the time, and 
send them off as fast as they are done. We had a twelve 
days' passage, owing to a double screw which they were 
trying and which delayed us, though it is safer than one. 
The weather was cold and rainy, and the sea rough, so I 
only went up once or twice, and kept warm in my den 
most of the time. After the first two days I did n't feel 
sick, except my head as usual. I slept, ate, ruminated, 
and counted the hours. May poked about more, and was 
liked by all. 

Europe. 2 1 3 

We got to Brest about noon Wednesday. A. and I got 
our trunks through the custom-house, and after some 
squabbling with the men, got all aboard for Morlaix, 
which is a curious old place worth seeing. It was a 
lovely day, warm as our June, and we had a charming 
trip of three hours through a country already green and 
flowery. We reached our hotel all right, and after a 
nice dinner had baths and went to bed. May's room 
being some way from mine, she came and bunked in 
with me in my little bed, and we slept. 

To-day is lovely, warm, and I am sitting at an open 
window looking at the square, enjoying the queer sights 
and sounds ; for the air resounds with the rattle of 
wooden shoes on the stones. 

Market-women sit all about selling queer things, among 
which are snails ; they buy them by the pint, pick them 
out with a pin like nuts, and seem to relish them mightily. 
We went out this A. M. after breakfast, and took a stroll 
about the queer old town. May was in heaven, and 
kept having raptures over the gables, the turrets with 
storks on them, the fountains, people, and churches. 
She is now sketching the tower of St. Melanie, with a 
crowd of small boys round her enjoying the sight and 
criticising the work. It don't seem very new to me, but 
I enjoy it, and feel pretty well. We are to study French 
every day when we settle, and I am to do the mending, 
etc., for A., who is to talk for us, and make our bargains. 
Sa far we go well together. 

To-morrow we go on to Lamballe, where we take the 
diligence to Dinan, fourteen miles farther, and there settle 
for some weeks. I wish the boys could see the funny 
children here in little wooden shoes like boats,, the girls 
in blue cloth caps, aprons, and shawls, just like the women, 
and the boys in funny hats and sheepskin jackets. Now 

214 Louisa May Alcott. 

I must go and get May, who can't speak a word of French, 
and has a panic if any one speaks to her. The beggars 
afflict her, and she wants to give them money on all occa- 
sions. This P. M. we go for a drive to see all there is, as 
neither A. nor I are good walkers ; " adoo " till by and 
by. I wish I could send you this balmy day. 

DINAN, Sunday, April 17, 1870. 

Here we are, all settled at our first neat stopping-place, 
and are in clover, as you will see when I tell you how 
plummy and lovely it is. We left Morlaix Friday at 8 A. M., 
and were so amazed at the small bill presented us that 
we could n't praise the town enough. You can judge of 
the cheapness of things, when I say that my share of the 
expenses from Brest here, including two days at a hotel, 
car, 'bus, and diligence fare, fees, and everything, was $8. 
The day was divine, and we had a fine little journey to 
Lamballe, where the fun began ; for instead of a big dili- 
gence, we found only a queer ramshackle thing like an 
insane carryall, with a wooden boot and queer porch for 
the driver. 

Our four trunks were piled up behind and tied on with 
old ropes, our bags stowed in a wooden box on top, and 
ourselves inside with a fat Frenchman. The humpbacked 
driver " ya hooped " to the horses, and away we clattered 
at a wild pace, all feeling dead sure that something would 
happen, for the old thing bounded and swayed awfully, 
the trunks were in danger of tumbling off, and to our dis- 
may we soon discovered that the big Frenchman was 
tipsy. He gabbled to A. as only a tipsy person could, 
quoted poetry ; said he was Victor Hugo's best friend, and 
a child of Nature ; that English ladies were all divine, but 
too cold, for when he pressed A.'s hand she told him 
it was not allowed in England, and he was overwhelmed 

Europe. 2 1 5 

with remorse ; bowed, sighed, rolled his eyes, and told 
her that he drank much ale, because it flew to his head 
and gave him " commercial ideas." 

I never saw anything so perfectly absurd as it was, and 
after we got used to it we laughed ourselves sick over the 
lark. You ought to have seen us and our turnout, tearing 
over the road at a breakneck pace, pitching, creaking, 
and rattling, the funny driver hooting at the horses, who 
had their tails done up in chignons, blue harness, and 
strings of bells, the drunken man warbling, exhorting, and 
languishing at us all by turns, while A. headed him off 
with great skill. I sat, a mass of English dignity and 
coolness, suffering alternate agonies of anxiety and amuse- 
ment, and May, who tied her head up in a bundle, looked 
like a wooden image. 

It was rich ; and when we took up first a peasant woman 
in wooden shoes and fly-away cap, and then a red-nosed 
priest smoking a long pipe, we were a superb spectacle. 
In this style we banged into Dinan, stopped at the gate, 
and were dumped bag and baggage in the square. Find- 
ing Madame Coste's man was not here for us, we hired a 
man to bring our trunks up. To our great amazement, 
an oldish woman, who was greasing the wheels of a dili- 
gence, came, and catching up our big trunks, whipped 
them into two broad carts, and taking one trotted down 
the street at a fine pace, followed by the man with the 
other. That was the finishing touch ; and we went laugh- 
ing after them through the great arched gate into the 
quaintest, prettiest, most romantic town I ever saw. Nar- 
row streets with overhanging gables, distracting roofs, 
windows, and porches, carved beams, and every sort of 
richness. The strong old lady beat the man, and finally 
landed us close by another old gate at a charming house 
fronting the south, overlooking a lovely green valley, full 

216 Louisa May Alcott. 

of gardens, blooming plum and peach trees, windmills, 
and a ruined castle, at sight of which we all skipped. 
Madame Coste received us with rapture, for A. brought 
a letter from Mrs. L., who stayed here and was the joy 
of the old lady's soul. We were in great luck, for being 
early in the season she had three rooms left, and we nabbed 
them at once, a salon with old oak walls and wardrobes, 
blue damask furniture, a fireplace, funny windows, and 
quaint furniture. A little room out of it for A., and upstairs 
a larger room for May and me, with two beds draped in 
green chintz, and carved big wardrobe, etc., and best of 
all, a sunny window toward the valley. For these rooms 
and our board we each pay $i a day, and I call that 
cheap. It would be worth that to get the fun and air 
alone, for it is like June, and we sit about with open 
windows, flowers in the fields, birds singing, and every- 
thing spring-like. 

We took possession at once, and dressed for a dinner 
at six. We were then presented to our fellow-boarders, 
Madame Forney, a buxom widow, her son Gaston, a hand- 
some Frenchy youth of twenty-three, and her daughter, a 
homely girl of twenty, who is to be married here on the 
3d of May. After a great bowing and scraping we had 
a funny fish dinner, it being Good Friday. When they 
found we did n't speak French they were " desolated," 
and begged us to learn at once, which we solemnly vowed 
to do. Gaston " knew English," so May at once began to 
teach him more, and the ice being broken we got gay and 
friendly at once. I could understand them pretty well, 
but can't talk, and A. told them that I was forbidden to 
say much on account of my throat. This will give me a 
chance to get a fair start. May pegs away at her gram- 
mar, and with that and the elegant Gaston, she will soon 
begin to " parlez-vous." 

Europe. 2 1 7 

After dinner we were borne to the great salon, where a 
fire, lights, and a piano appeared. Every one sat round 
and gabbled except the Alcotts, who looked and laughed. 
Mademoiselle Forney played, and then May convulsed 
them by singing some Chants Ameriques, which they 
thought very lively and droll. They were all attention 
and devotion to Madame Coste, a tall old lady with 
whiskers, who kept embracing A. and beaming at us in 
her great content at being friends of chere Madame L. 
A. told them that I was a celebrated authoress, and May 
a very fine artist, and we were beamed at more than ever. 
Being tired, we turned in early, after a jolly time in our 
own little salon, eating chocolate and laying plans. 

DINAN, April 20, 1870. 

... A. and I went shopping. A. got a little bird to 
enliven our parlor, a sort of sparrow, gray with a red head 
and a lively song. We named him Bernard du Guesclin 
(the hero of the town), and call him Bernie. I got some 
nice gloves for three francs (sixty cents), and a white sun- 
umbrella for May (forty cents). She needs it when she 
sketches, and there is always a crowd of children round 
her to watch and admire ; she gives one of them a sou to 
hold the umbrella, and so gets on nicely. 

In the P. M. A. and I went to the little village of Lahou, 
in the valley where the ruined castle is, to a fair. It was 
a very picturesque sight, for the white- capped women, 
sitting about on the green hillside, looked like flowers, 
and the blue blouses of the men and wide-brimmed hats 
added to the effect. The little street was lined with 
booths, where they sold nuts, queer cakes, hot sausages, 
and pancakes, toys, etc. I got a funny cake, just the 
size and shape of a deep pie-dish, and a jack-knife, for a 
sou. We also indulged in nuts, and sat on our camp- 

218 Louisa May Alcott. 

stools in a shady place and ate them boldly in the public 
mart, while enjoying the lively scene. French and Eng- 
lish people went by in droll parties, and we coolly sat and 
stared at them. May is going to sketch the castle, so I 
won't waste paper describing the pretty place with the 
ruined church full of rooks, the old mill with the water- 
wheel housed in vines, or the winding river, and meadows 
full of blue hyacinths and rosy daisies. 

Yesterday, A. and I had to return the call of Made- 
moiselle M., and as she speaks English I got on very 
well. The stairs to her apartment were so steep that we 
held on by a velvet-covered rope as we climbed up. In 
the P. M. we had fun, for we took two donkey carriages 
and rode to the mineral spring. Gaston was sick and 
could n't go, as we had planned, so May drove herself in 
one, and A. and I in the other. I wish the boys could 
have seen us, it was so funny. The carriages were bath- 
chairs with a wee donkey harnessed to each, so small, so 
neat, and looking so venerable with thin long ears and 
bits of feet that I felt as if I was driving my grandmother. 
May was a very imposing sight, alone in her chair under 
her new umbrella, in her gray suit, with bright gloves and 
a big whip, driving a gray rat who would n't trot un- 
less pounded and banged and howled at in the maddest 
way. Our steed was bigger, but the most pig-headed old 
scamp you ever saw, for it took two big women to make 
him go. I drove, and A. thrashed away with all her 
might, our joint efforts only producing occasional short 
trots which enraged us dreadfully. 

We laughed till we were sick, it was so very absurd ; 
while May trundled serenely along, enjoying the fine vigws 
regardless of her rat, who paced along at his ease, wagging 
his ears and meditating. 

We had a nice trip, but did n't drink the water, as iron 

Europe. 219 

don't suit us. Coming home, we passed the home of the 
donkeys, and they at once turned in, and were with much 
difficulty persuaded to go on by two short girls in caps 
and short gowns, who ran and shouted " E ! E ! va oui ! ' 
and punched sticks into the poor asses, rattling us over 
the stones till our eyes danced in our heads. We found 
it rather hard work, and A. means to buy a horse and 
straw pony-chaise, so we can drive ourselves in peace 
where we like. . . . 

A. is bargaining for a horse which an Englishman wishes 
to sell for $50, including harness and cart. We can't hire 
horses for less than $2 a drive, and donkeys are vile, so 
it is cheaper to buy, and sell when we go away, and so 
drive as much as we like. A. knows about such things, 
and takes all the responsibility. . . . To-morrow we go on a 
little excursion in the steamboat down the river, and return 
a la donkey with the English ladies, who have returned 
our call and are very friendly. 

Please forward this little note in an envelope to its ad- 
dress. The child wrote me a pretty letter, which N. sent, 
and the pa said I would n't answer. The child said, " I 
know she will, she is so nice." So I do. Best love to 
every one. Don't go home too soon. I shall write to 
Fred and Jack next time. Good-by. 


To M. S. 

. . . They call each other pet names that convulse us, - 
"my little pig," "my sweet hen," "my cabbage," and 
" my tom-cat." A French lady with her son and daugh- 
ter board here, and their ways amuse us mightily. The 
girl is to be married next week to a man whom she has 
seen twice, and never talked to but an hour in her life. 
She writes to him what her mother dictates, and says she 
should be ashamed to love him before they were married. 

220 Louisa May Alcott. 

Her wedding clothes absorb her entire mind, and her 
Jules will get a pretty doll when he takes Mademoiselle 
A. F. to wife. Gaston, the son, puts on blase airs, 
though only twenty-two, and languishes at May, for 
they can't talk, as he does not know English nor she 

April 27. 

I left my letter to drive to a ruined chateau, which we 
went all over, as a part is inhabited by a farmer who keeps 
his hog in the great banqueting hall, his grain in the chapel, 
and his hens in the lady's chamber. It was very pictu- 
resque ; the old rooms, with ivy coming in at the windows, 
choking up the well, and climbing up the broken towers. 
The lady of the chateau was starved to death by her cruel 
brothers, and buried in the moat, where her bones were 
found long afterward, and her ghost still haunts the place 
they say. Here we had cider, tell Pa. 

Coming home we saw a Dolmen, one of the Druidical 
remains. It stood in a grove of old pines, a great post of 
gray stone, some twenty-five feet high, and very big round. 
It leaned as if falling, and had queer holes in it. Brit- 
tany is full of these relics, which no one can explain, and 
I was glad to see the mysterious things. 

Yesterday we took a little trip down the river in a tiny 
steamer, going through a lock and skimming along be- 
tween the green banks of the narrow river to Miss M.'s 
country-house, where we had new milk, and lay on the 
grass for an hour or so. Then May and Miss M. walked 
home, and A. and I went in a donkey cart. 

To-day the girls have gone to La Garaye with Gaston 
on donkeys. The weather has been cold for a day or 
two with easterly winds. So I feel it at once and keep 
warm. It is very unusual at this time, but comes, I sup- 
pose, because I Ve travelled hundreds of miles to get rid 

Europe. 221 

of them. It won't last long, and then we shall be hot 

We lead such quiet, lazy lives I really have nothing 
to tell. 

Oh, yes, the fiance of Mademoiselle has arrived, and 
amuses us very much. He is a tiny man in uniform, with 
a red face, big moustache, and blue eyes. He thinks he 
talks English, and makes such very funny mistakes. He 
asked us if we had been to " promenade on monkeys " 
meaning donkeys, and called the Casino " the establish- 
ment of dance." He addresses all his attentions to the 
ma, and only bows to his future wife, who admires her 
diamonds and is contented. We are going away on the 
day of the wedding, as it is private. 

The girls have just returned in great spirits, for A.'s 
donkey kept lying down, and it took all three to get him 
up again. They sat in a sort of chair, and looked very 
funny with the four little legs under them and long ears 
flopping before. I shall go to Garaye some fine day, and 
will tell you about it. 

Adieu, love to all. Yours, Lu. 

DINAN, May 6, 1870. 

DEAR PEOPLE, I have just got a fat letter full of 
notices from N., all good, and news generally pleasant. 

The great event of the season is over, and Miss F. is 
Mrs. C. It was a funny scene, for they had a breakfast 
the day before, then on Tuesday the wedding. We did 
not go, as the church is like a tomb, but we saw the 
bride, in white satin, pearls, orange flowers, and lace, 
very pretty, and like other brides. Her ma, in purple 
moire and black lace, was fine to see ; and the little 
groom, in full regimentals, with a sabre as large as him- 
self, was very funny. A lot of people came in carriages 

222 Louisa May Alcott. 

to escort them to church ; and our little square was full 
of queer turnouts, smartly dressed people, and a great 
bustle. There was some mistake about the bride's car- 
riage, and it did not drive up in time, so she stood on 
the steps till it came as near as it could, and then she 
trotted out to it on Gaston's arm, with her maid holding 
up her satin train. Uncle, ma, bride, and brother drove 
off, but the groom's carriage was delayed by the breaking 
of a trace, and there he sat, with his fat pa and ma, after 
every one had gone, fuming, and poking his little cocked 
hat out of the window, while the man mended the har- 
ness, and every one looked on with breathless interest. 

We went to D with Coste in the p. M., and had a 

fine view of the sea and San Malo. We did n't like 

D , and won't go there. When we got home about 

eight o'clock the wedding dinner was in full blast, and I 
caught a glimpse of a happy pair at the head of the 
table, surrounded by a lot of rigged-up ladies and fine 
men, all gabbing and gabbling as only French folk can. 
The couple are still here, resting and getting acquainted 
before they go to Lamballe for a week of festivity. A 
church wedding is a very funny thing, and I wish you 
could have seen it. 

The dry season continues, and the people have pro- 
cessions and masses to pray for rain. One short flurry 
of hail is all we have had, and the cold winds still blow. 
When our month is out we shall go somewhere near the 
sea if it is at all warm. Nothing could be kinder than 
dear old Coste, and I could n't be in a better place to be 
poorly in than this ; she coddles me like a mother, and 
is so grieved that I don't get better. 

Send Ma a bit of the gorse flower with which the fields 
are now yellow. 

Yours, Lu. 

Europe. 223 

DINAN, May 13, 1870. 

DEAREST FOLKS, We drove to Guildo yesterday to 
see if we should like it for July. It is a queer little town 
on the seashore, with ruins near by, bright houses, and 
lots of boats. Rooms a franc a day, and food very 
cheap. The man of the house a big, brown, Peggotty 
sailor has a sloop, and promised the girls as much 
sailing as they liked. We may go, but our plans are 
very vague, and one day we say we will go to one place 
and the next to another, and shall probably end by stay- 
ing where we are. 

Yours, Lu. 

DINAN, May 17, 1870. 

DEAREST PEOPLE, We run out and do errands in the 
cool before breakfast at ten, then we write, sew, and 
read, and look round, till four, when we go to drive. 
May and I in the cherry bounce with M. Harmon to 
drive us, and A. on horseback ; for, after endless fuss, she 
has at last evoked a horse out of chaos, and comes gal- 
loping gayly after us as we drive about the lovely roads 
with the gallant hotel-keeper, Adolph Harmon. We are 
getting satiated with ruins and chateaux, and plan a trip 
by water to Nantes ; for the way they do it is to hire a 
big boat and be towed by a horse in the most luxurious 

To Anna. 

DINAN, May 25, 1870. 

DEAR BETSEY/ All well. We have also had fun 
about the queer food, as we don't like brains, liver, etc. 
A. does ; and when we eat some mess, not knowing what 

1 Betsey Prig was a pet name for her sister, as she herself was 
Sairey Gamp. 

224 Louisa May Alcott. 

it is, and find it is sheep's tails or eels, she exults over 
us, and writes poems. 

I wander dreadfully, but the girls are racketing, birdie 
singing like mad, and nine horses neighing to one an- 
other in the place, so my ideas do not flow as clearly 
as they should. Besides, I expect Gaston to come in 
every minute to show us his rig ; for he is going to a 
picnic in Breton costume, a very French affair, for 
the party are to march two and two, with fiddlers in 
front, and donkeys bearing the feast in the rear. Such 
larks ! 

Yesterday we had a funny time. We went to drive in 
a basket chair, very fine, with a perch behind and a 
smart harness ; but most of the horses here are stallions, 
and act like time. Ours went very well at first, but in 
the town took to cutting up, and suddenly pounced on 
to a pile of brush, and stuck his head into a bake-shop. 
We tried to get him out, but he only danced and neighed, 
and all the horses in town seemed to reply. A man 
came and led him on a bit, but he did n't mean to go, 
and whisked over to the other side, where he tangled us 
and himself up with a long string of team horses. I flew 
out and May soon followed. A. was driving, and kept in 
while the man led the "critter" back to the stable. I 
declined my drive with the insane beast, and so we left 
him and bundled home in the most ignominious manner. 
All the animals are very queer here, and, unlike ours, 
excessively big. 

We went to a ruin one day, and were about to explore 
the castle, when a sow, with her family of twelve, charged 
through the gateway at us so fiercely that we fled in dis- 
may ; for pigs are not nice when they attack, as we don't 
know where to bone 'em, and I saw a woman one day 
whose nose had been bitten off by an angry pig. I 

Europe. 225 

flew over a hedge ; May tried to follow. I pulled her 
over head first, and we tumbled into the tower like a 
routed garrison. It was n't a nice ruin, but we were 
bound to see it, having suffered so much. And we' did 
see it, in spite of the pigs, who waylaid us on all sides, 
and squealed in triumph when we left, dirty, torn, and 
tired. The ugly things wander at their own sweet will, 
and are tall, round-backed, thin wretches, who run like 
race horses, and are no respecters of persons. 

Sunday was a great day here, for the children were 
confirmed. It was a pretty sight to see the long pro- 
cession of little girls, in white gowns and veils, winding 
through the flowery garden and the antique square, into 
the old church, with their happy mothers following, and 
the boys in their church robes singing as they went. The 
old priest was too ill to perform the service, but the 
young one who did announced afterward that if the chil- 
dren would pass the house the old man would bless 
them from his bed. So all marched away down the 
street, with crosses and candles, and it was very touching 
to see the feeble old man stretch out his hands above 
them as the little white birds passed by with bended 
heads, while the fresh, boyish voices chanted the re- 
sponses. This old priest is a very interesting man, for 
he is a regular saint, helping every one, keeping his 
house as a refuge for poor and old priests, settling quarrels 
among the people, and watching over the young people 
as if they were his own. I shall put him in a story. 

Voila ! Gaston has just come in, rigged in a white 
embroidered jacket, with the Dinan coat-of-arms worked 
in scarlet and yellow silk on it fore and aft ; a funny hat, 
with streamers, and a belt, with a knife, horn, etc. He 
is handsome, and as fond of finery as a girl. I '11 send 
you his picture next time, and one of Dinan. 

226 Louisa May Alcott. 

You will see that Marmee has all she needs, and a 
girl, and as much money as she wants for being cosey and 
comfortable. S. E. S. will let her have all she wants, and 
mak'e her take it. I 'm sorry the chapel $100 did n't come, 
for she likes to feel that she has some of her very own. 

I have written to Conway and Mrs. Taylor, so that if 
we decide to take a run to England before we go to 
Italy, the way will be open. . . . 

But Dinan is so healthy and cosey, that we shall linger 
till the heat makes us long for the sea. Roses, cherries, 
strawberries, and early vegetables are come, and we are 
in clover. Dear old Coste broods over us like a motherly 
hen, and just now desired me to give her affectionate 
and respectful compliments to my bonne mere. 

Now I 'm spun out ; so adieu, my darling Nan. 
Write often, and I will keep sending, trusting that 
you will get them in time. 

Kisses all round. 

Yours, Lu. 

DINAN, May 30, 1870. 

DEAR FOLKS, May has made up such a big letter 
that I will only add a line to give you the last news of 
the health of her Highness Princess Louisa. She is such 
a public character nowadays that even her bones are not 
her own, and her wails of woe cannot be kept from the 
long ears of the world, old donkey as it is ! 

Dr. Kane, who was army surgeon in India, and doctor 
in England for forty years, says my leg trouble and many 
of my other woes come from the calomel they gave me 
in Washington. He has been through the same thing 
with an Indian jungle fever, and has never got the 
calomel out of him. ... I don't know anything about 
it, only my leg is the curse of my life. But I think 

Europe. 227 

Dr. K.'s iodine of potash will cure it in the end, as it did 
his arms, after taking it for three months. It is simple, 
pleasant, and seems to do something to the bones that gives 
them ease ; so I shall sip away and give it a good trial. 

We are now revelling in big strawberries, green peas, 
early potatoes, and other nice things, on which we shall 
grow fat as pigs. 

We are beginning to think of a trip into Normandy, 
where the H.'s are. 

Love to all. By-by ! Your loving Lu. 

No news except through N., who yesterday sent me a 
nice letter with July account of $6,212, a neat little 
sum for " the Alcotts, who can't make money ! ' With 
$10,000 well invested, and more coming in all the time, 
I think we may venture to enjoy ourselves, after the hard 
times we have all had. 

The cream of the joke is, that we made our own 
money ourselves, and no one gave us a blessed penny. 
That does soothe my rumpled soul so much that the 
glory is not worth thinking of. 

To Anna, 

DINAN, June 4, 1870. 

The present excitement is the wood which Coste is 
having put in. Loads keep coming in queer, heavy carts 
drawn by four horses each, and two men to work the 
machine. Two men chop the great oak stumps, and 
a woman puts it in down cellar by the armful. The 
men get two francs a day, forty cents ! (Would n't 
our $3 a day workmen howl at that sort of wages !) 
When several carts arrive at once the place is a lively 
scene. Just now there were three carts and twelve 
horses, and eight were all up in a snarl, while half-a- 

228 Louisa May Alcott. 

dozen ladies stood at their doors and gave advice. One 
had a half-dressed baby in her arms ; one a lettuce she 
was washing; another her distaff; and a fourth her little 
bowl of soup, which she ate at on the sidewalk, in the 
intervals gesticulating so frantically that her sabots rat- 
tled on the stones. The horses had a free fight, and the 
man could n't seem to manage one big one, who romped 
about like a wild elephant, till the lady with the baby 
suddenly set the half-naked cherub on the doorsteps, 
charged in among the rampant beasts, and, by some 
magic howl or jerk, brought the bad horse to order, 
when she quietly returned to her baby, who had sat pla- 
cidly eating dirt, and with a calm Voilci, messieurs, 
she skipped little Jean into his shirt, and the men sat 
down to smoke. 

We are now in great excitement over Gaston, who has 
lately become so very amiable that we don't know him. 
We began by letting the spoiled child severely alone. 
This treatment worked well, and now he offers us things 
at table, bows when we enter, and to-day presented us 
with green tulips, violet shrubs, and queer medals all 
round. We have let little bits of news leak out about us, 
and they think we are dukes and duchesses in Amer- 
ique, and pronounce us tres spirituelles ; tres char- 
mantes ; tres seductives femmes. We laugh in pri- 
vate, and are used to having the entire company rise 
when we enter, and embrace us with ardor, listen with 
uplifted hands and shrieks of man Dieu ! grand del ! 
etc., to all remarks, and point us out in public as les 
dames Americaines. Such is fame ! 

An English lady arrived to-day a Miss B. dressed, 
with English taste, in a little green skirt, pink calico waist, 
a large crumpled frill, her hair in a tight knot, one front 
tooth sticking straight out, and a golden oriole in a large 

Europe. 229 

cage. She is about forty, very meek and pursy, and the 
old ladies have been sitting in a heap since breakfast, 
talking like mad. 

May has " sack ' on the brain just now, and A. has 
" hose " on the brain ; and at this moment they are both 
gabbling wildly, one saying, " I shall trim it with blue 
and have it pinked ! ' the other shrieking, " My hose 
must be red, with little dragons in black all over it, like 
small-pox ! " and the bird flies to her upper perch in dis- 
may at the riot, while I sit and laugh, with an occasional 
duennaish, " Young ladies, less noise if you please ! ' 

It rained last eve, and we are waiting for it to dry 
before going out in the donkey chaise to buy a warm 
bun and some strawberries for lunch, to be eaten as we 
parade the town and drink ale at intervals. 

Do tell me how things are about my pictures. I see 
they are advertised, and if they sell I want my share 
of the profits. Send me one of those that are in the 
market, after taking off the heavy card. 

Love to all, and the best of luck. 

Ever your Lu. 

HOTEL D'UNIVERSE, TOURS, June 17, 1870. 

DEAREST PEOPLE, Our wanderings have begun again, 
and here we are in this fine old city in a cosey hotel, as 
independent and happy as three old girls can be. We 
left Dinan Wednesday at 7 A. M. Gaston got up to see us 
off, a most unusual and unexpected honor ; also Mrs. B. 
and all the old ladies, whom we left dissolved in tears. 

We had a lovely sail down the river to St. Malo, 
where we breakfasted at Hotel Franklin, a quaint old 
house in a flowery corner. At twelve we went by rail to 
Le Mans, a long trip, and arrived at 6 P. M. so tired 

230 Louisa May Alcott. 

that we went to bed in the moonlight while a band 
played in the square before the hotel, and the sidewalks 
before the cafe were full of people taking ices and coffee 
round little tables. 

Next morning we went to see the famous cathedral 
and had raptures, for it is like a dream in stone. Pure 
Gothic of the twelfth century, with the tomb of Berenga- 
ria, wife of Cceur de Leon, stained glass of the richest 
kind, dim old chapels with lamps burning, a gorgeous 
high altar all crimson and gold and carmine, and several 
organs. Anything more lovely and divine I never saw, 
for the arches, so light and graceful, seemed to soar up 
one above the other like the natural curves of trees or the 
spray of a great fountain. We spent a long time here 
and I sat above in the quaint old chapel with my eyes 
and heart full, and prayed a little prayer for my family. 
Old women and men knelt about in corners telling their 
beads, and the priest was quietly saying his prayers at 
the altar. Outside it was a pile of gray stone, with towers 
and airy pinnacles full of carved saints and busy rooks. 
I don't think we shall see anything finer anywhere. It 
was very hot for there had been no rain for four months, 
so we desired to start for town at 5 and get in about 8 
as it is light then. 

We had a pleasant trip in the cool of the day, and 
found Tours a great city, like Paris on a small scale. 
Our hotel is on the boulevard, and the trees, fountains, 
and fine carriages make our windows very tempting. We 
popped into bed early ; and my bones are so much better 
that I slept without any opium or anything, a feat I 
have not performed for some time. 

This morning we had coffee and rolls in bed, then as 
it was a fine cool day we dressed up clean and nice and 
went out for a walk. At the post-office we found your 

Europe. 231 

letters of May 31, one from Nan and Ma, and one from 
L. We were exalted, and went into the garden and 
read them in bliss, with the grand cathedral right before 
us. Cathedral St. Martin, twelfth century, with tomb of 
Charles XIII. 's children, the armor of Saint Louis, fine 
pictures of Saint Martin, his cloak, etc. May will tell you 
about it and I shall put in a photograph, if I can find 
one. We are now 12 o'clock in our pleasant room 
all round the table writing letters and resting for another 
trip by and by. 

The Fete Dieu is on Monday, very splendid, and 
we shall then see the cathedral in its glory. To-day a few 
hundred children were having their first communion 
there, girls all in white, with scarlet boys, crosses, candles, 
music, priests, etc. Get a Murray, and on the map of 
France follow us to Geneva, via St. Malo, Le Mans, 
Tours, Amboise and Blois, Orleans, Nevers, Antrim. 
We may go to the Vosges instead of the Jura if Mrs. H. 
can go, as A. wants to see her again. But we head for 
the Alps of some sort and will report progress as we go. 

My money holds out well so far, as we go second class. 

To her Father. 

TOURS, June 20, 1870. 

DEAR PAPA, Before we go on to fresh " chateaux 
and churches new," I must tell you about the sights here 
in this pleasant, clean, handsome old city. May has 
done the church for you, and I send a photograph to 
give some idea of it. The inside is very beautiful ; and 
we go at sunset to see the red light make the gray walls 
lovely outside and the shadows steal from chapel to 
chapel inside, filling the great church with what is really 
" a dim religious gloom." We wandered about it the 

232 Louisa May Alcott. 

other evening till moonrise, and it was very interesting 
to see the people scattered here and there at their 
prayers ; some kneeling before Saint Martin's shrine, some 
in a flowery little nook dedicated to the infant Christ, 
and one, a dark corner with a single candle lighting up 
a fine picture of the Mater Dolorosa, where a widow all 
in her weeds sat alone, crying and praying. In another 
a sick old man sat, while his old wife knelt by him pray- 
ing with all her might to Saint Gratien (the patron saint of 
the church) for her dear old invalid. Nuns and priests 
glided about, and it was all very poetical and fine, till I 
came to an imposing priest in a first class chapel who was 
taking snuff and gaping, instead of piously praying. 

The Fete Dieu was yesterday, and I went out to see 
the procession. The streets were hung with old tapestry, 
and sheets covered with flowers. Crosses, crowns, and 
bouquets were suspended from house to house, and as 
the procession approached, women ran out and scattered 
green boughs and rose-leaves before the train. A fine 
band and a lot of red soldiers came first, then the differ- 
ent saints on banners, carried by girls, and followed by 
long trains of girls bearing the different emblems. Saint 
Agnes and her lamb was followed by a flock of pretty 
young children all in white, carrying tall white lilies that 
filled the air with their fragrance. 

" Mary our Mother ' was followed by orphans with 
black ribbons crossed on their breasts. Saint Martin led 
the charity boys in their gray suits, etc. The Host under 
a golden canopy was borne by priests in gorgeous rig, 
and every one knelt as it passed with censors swinging, 
candles burning, boys chanting, and flowers dropping 
from the windows. A pretty young lady ran out and set 
her baby in a pile of green leaves in the middle of the 
street before the Host, and it passed over the little thing 

Europe. 233 

who sat placidly staring at the show and admiring its 
blue shoes. I suppose it is a saved and sacred baby 

It was a fine pageant and quite touching, some of it ; 
but as usual, I saw something funny to spoil the so- 
lemnity. A very fat and fine priest, who walked with 
his eyes upon his book and sung like a pious bumble- 
bee, suddenly destroyed the effect by rapping a boy over 
the head with his gold prayer-book, as the black sheep 
strayed a little from the flock. I thought the old saint 
swore also. 

The procession went from the cathedral to Charle- 
magne's Tower, an old, old relic, all that is left of the 
famous church which once covered a great square. We 
went to see it, and the stones looked as if they were 
able to tell wonderful tales of the scenes they had 
witnessed all these hundreds of years. I think the " Re- 
miniscences of a Rook' would be a good story, for 
these old towers are full of them, and they are long- 
lived birds. 

Tuesday, June 21, 1870. 

Here we go again ! now in an utterly different scene 
from Tours. We left at 5 P. M., and in half an hour 
were here on the banks of the Loire in a queer little 
inn where we are considered duchesses at least, owing to 
our big trunks and A.'s good French. I am the Ma- 
dame, May Mam'selle, and A. the companion. 

Last evening being lovely, we went after dinner up to 
the castle where Charles VIII. was born in 1470. The 
Arab chief, Abd-el-Kader, and family were kept prisoners 
here, and in the old garden is a tomb with the crescent 
over it where some of them were buried. May was told 
about the terrace where the Huguenots hung thick and 

234 Louisa May Alcott. 

the court enjoyed the sight till the Loire, choked up with 
dead bodies, forced them to leave. We saw the little 
low door where Anne of Brittany's first husband Charles 
VIII. " bumped his head " and killed himself, as he was 
running through to play bowls with his wife. 

It has been modernized and is now being restored as 
in old times, so the interior was all in a toss. But we 
went down the winding road inside the tower, up which 
the knights and ladies used to ride. Father would 
have enjoyed the pleached walks, for they are cut so 
that looking down on them, it is like a green floor, and 
looking up it is a thick green wall. There also Margaret 
of Anjou and her son were reconciled to Warwick. Read 
Murray, I beg, and see all about it. We sat in the twi- 
light on the terrace and saw what Fred would have liked, 
a little naked boy ride into the river on one horse after 
another, and swim them round in the deep water till 
they were all clean and cool. 

This morning at 7 o'clock we drove to Chenonceaux, 
the chateau given by Henry II. to Diane de Poictiers. 
It was a lovely day, and we went rolling along through the 
most fruitful country I ever saw. Acre on acre of yellow 
grain, vineyards miles long, gardens and orchards full of 
roses and cherries. The Cher is a fine river winding 
through the meadows, where haymakers were at work 
and fat cattle feeding. It was a very happy hour, and 
the best thing I saw was May's rapturous face opposite, as 
she sat silently enjoying everything, too happy to talk. 

The chateau built over the water is very interesting ; 
Catherine de Medicis took it away from Diane when the 
king died, and her room is still seen as she left it ; also 
a picture of Diane, a tall simpering woman in a tunic, 
with hounds, stag, cupids, and other rubbish round her. 
The gallery of pictures was fine ; for here were old, old 

Europe. 235 

portraits and bas-reliefs, Agnes Sorel, Montaigne, Rabel- 
ais, many kings and queens, and among them Lafay- 
ette and dear old Ben Franklin. 

There is a little theatre where Rousseau's plays were 
acted. This place at the time of the Revolution be- 
longed to the grandmother of George Sand, and she was 
so much respected that no harm was done to it. So 
three cheers for Madame Dupin ! Among the pictures were 
Ninon D'Enclos, and Madame Sevigne" holding a picture 
of her beloved daughter. The Guides, etc. I don't care 
for so much as they were all grimy and convulsive, and 
I prefer pictures of people who really lived, to these 
impossible Venuses and repulsive saints, bad taste, but 
I can't help it. The walls were hung with stamped 
leather and tapestry, carved chairs in which queens had 
sat, tables at which kings had eaten, books they had 
read, and glasses that had reflected their faces were all 
about, and I just revelled. The old kitchen had a fire- 
place quaint enough to suit Pa, with immense turn-spits, 
cranes, andirons, etc. The chapel, balcony, avenue, 
draw-bridge, and all the other pleasing bits were enjoyed, 
and I stole a sprig of jasmine from the terrace which I 
shall press for Mamma. Pray take extra care of the 
photographs, for if lost, we cannot replace them, and I 
want to make a fine album of pictures with flowers and 
descriptions after I get home. . . . But all goes well and 
we enjoy much every day. Love to all, Lu. 

To her Mother. 

BLOIS, June 24, 1870. 

DEAR MARMEE, On this, Lizzie's and Johnny's birth- 
day, I '11 begin a letter to you. We found at the Poste 
Restante here two " Moods " and a paper for me, one 

236 Louisa May Alcott. 

book from L., and one from N. I think the pictures 
horrid, and sent them floating down the Loire as soon as 
possible, and put one book at the bottom of my trunk 
and left the other where no one will find it. I could n't 
read the story, and try to forget that I ever wrote it. 

Blois is a noisy, dusty, soldierly city with nothing to 
admire but the river, nearly dry now with this four 
months' drought, and the old castle where Francis I., 
Louis XII., Catherine de Medicis, and other great folks 
lived. It has been very splendidly restored by the Gov- 
ernment, and the ceilings are made with beams blazoned 
with coats-of-arms, the walls hung with cameos, painted 
with the same design as the stamped leather in old 
times, and the floors inlaid with colored tiles. Brown 
and gold, scarlet, blue, and silver, quaint dragons and 
flowers, porcupines and salamanders, crowns and letters, 
glittered everywhere. We saw the guard-room and the 
very chimney where the Due de Guise was leaning when 
the king Henry III. sent for him ; the little door where 
the king's gentlemen fell upon and stabbed him with 
forty wounds ; the cabinet where the king and his 
mother plotted the deed ; the chapel where the monks 
prayed for success ; and the great hall where the body 
lay covered with a cloak till the king came and looked 
at it and kicked his dead enemy, saying, " I- did not 
think he was so tall." We also saw the cell where the 
brother of the duke was murdered the next day, and the 
attic entire where their bodies were burnt, after which 
the ashes were thrown into the Loire by order of the 
king ; .the window out of which Marie de Medicis low- 
ered herself when her son Louis XIII. imprisoned her 
there ; the recess where Catherine de Medicis died ; and 
many other interesting places. What a set of rascals 
these old kings and queens were ! 

Europe. 237 


The Salle des Etats was very gorgeous, and here in a 
week or so are to be tried the men who lately fired at 
the Emperor. It will be a grand, a fine sight when the 
great arched hall is full. I got a picture of the castle, and 
one of a fireplace for Pa. It is a mass of gold and color, 
with the porcupine of Louis XIII. an4 the ermine of his 
wife Anne of Brittany, their arms, in medallion over it. 

At 5 P. M. we go on to Orleans for a day, where I shall 
get some relics of Joan of Arc for Nan. We shall pass 
Sunday at Bourges where the great church is, and then 
either to Geneva or the Jura, for a few weeks of rest. 

GENEVA, June 29, 1870. 

It seems almost like getting home again to be here 
where I never thought to come again when I went away 
five years ago. We are at the Metropole Hotel right on 
the lake with a glimpse of Mount Blanc from our win- 
dows. It is rather fine after the grimy little inns of 
Brittany, and we enjoy a sip of luxury and put on our 
best gowns with feminine satisfaction after living in old 
travelling suits for a fortnight. 

I began my letter at Blois, where we spent a day or 
two. At Orleans we only passed a night, but we had 
time to see the famous statue of the Maid, put up in grati- 
tude by the people of the city she saved. It is a fine 
statue of Joan in her armor on horseback, with her sword 
drawn. Round the base of the statue are bronzed bas- 
reliefs of her life from the girl with her sheep, to the 
martyr at the stake. They were very fine, but don't show 
much in the photograph which I got for Nan, remember- 
ing the time when she translated Schiller's play for me. 

At Bourges we saw the great cathedral, but did n't 
like it as well as that in Tours. We only spent a night 
there, and A. bought an antique ring of the time of 

238 Louisa May Alcott. 

Francis I., an emerald set in diamonds. It cost $9, 
and is very quaint and handsome. 

Moulins we reached Sunday noon, and at 3 o'clock 
went to vespers in the old church, where we saw a good 
deal of mumbo-jumbo by red, purple, and yellow priests, 
and heard a boy with a lovely voice sing in the hidden 
choir like a little angel among the clouds. A. had a 
fancy to stay a week, if we could find rooms out of town 
in some farm-house ; for the handsome white cattle have 
captivated her, and we were rather tired. So the old 
lady at the hotel said she had a little farm-house out 
in the fields, and we should go see it with her in bas- 
ket chay. After dinner we all piled in and went along 
a dusty road to a little dirty garden-house with two rooms 
and a few cabbages and rose-bushes round it. She said 
we could sleep and eat at the hotel and come down 
here for the day. That did n't suit at all, so we declined ; 
and on Monday morning we set out for Lyons. It was a 
very interesting trip under, over, and through the moun- 
tains with two engines and much tunnelling and up-and- 
down grading. May was greatly excited at the queer 
things we did, and never knew that cars could turn such 
sharp corners. We wound about so that we could see the 
engine whisking out of sight round one corner while we 
were turning another, and the long train looked like a 
snake winding through the hills. The tunnels were so 
long that lamps were lighted, and so cold we put on our 
sacks while passing in the darkness. The scenery was 
very fine ; and after we left Lyons, where we merely slept, 
the Alps began to appear, and May and I stared in bliss- 
ful silence ; for we had two tall old men opposite, and a 
little priest, so young that we called him the Rev. boy. 
He slept and said his prayers most of the time, stealing 
sly looks at May's hair, A.'s pretty hands, and my buckled 

Europe. 239 

shoes, which were like his own and seemed to strike him 
as a liberty on my part. The old boys were very jolly, 
especially the one with three chins, who smiled pater- 
nally upon us and tried to talk. But we were very Eng- 
lish and mum, and he thought we didn't understand 
French, and confided to his friend that he did n't see 
" how the English could travel and know not the French 
tongue." They sang, gabbled, slept, and slapped one 
another at intervals, and were very amusing till they left, 
and another very handsome Booth-like priest took their 

To her Father. 

BEX, July 14, 1870. 

DEAR PA, As I have not written to you yet, I will 
send you a picture-letter and tell you about the very in- 
teresting old Count Sz who is here. This morning he 
asked us to go to the hills and see some curious trees 
which he says were planted from acorns and nuts brought 
from Mexico by Atala. We found some very ancient 
oaks and chestnuts, and the enthusiastic old man told us 
the story about the Druids who once had a church, am- 
phitheatre, and sacrifical altar up there. No one knows 
much about it, and he imagines a good deal to suit his own 
pet theory. You would have liked to hear him hold forth 
about the races and Zoroaster, Plato, etc. He is a Hun- 
garian of a very old family, descended from Semiramide 
and Zenobia. He believes that the body can be cured 
often by influencing the soul, and that doctors should be 
priests, and priests doctors, as the two affect the body 
and soul which depend on one another. He is doing 
a great deal for Miss W., who has tried many doctors 
and got no help. I never saw such a kindly, simple, en- 
thusiastic, old soul, for at sixty-seven he is as full of hope 
and faith and good-will as a young man. I told him I 

240 Louisa May Alcott. 

should like my father to see a little book he has written, 
and he is going to give me one. 

We like this quiet little place among the mountains, 
and pass lazy days ; for it is very warm, and we sit about on 
our balconies enjoying the soft air, the moonlight, and the 
changing aspect of the hiils. 

May had a fine exciting time going up St. Bernard, 
and is now ready for another. . . . 

The Polish Countess and her daughter have been read- 
ing my books and are charmed with them. Madame 
says she is not obliged to turn down any pages so that 
the girls may not read them, as she does in many books, 
" All is so true, so sweet, so pious, she may rea4 every 

I send by this mail the count's little pamphlet. I 
don' i know as it amounts to much, but I thought you 
might like to see it. 

Love to every one, and write often to your 

Affectionate daughter L. M. A. 

BEX, July 18, 1870. 

DEAR PEOPLE, The breaking out of this silly little 
war between France and Prussia will play the deuce with 
our letters. I have had none from you for a long time ; 
and Alexandre, the English waiter here, says that the mails 
will be left to come as they can, for the railroads are all 
devoted to carrying troops to the seat of war. The 
French have already crossed the Rhine, and rumors of a 
battle came last eve ; but the papers have not arrived, and 
no letters for any one, so all are fuming for news, public 
and private, and I am howling for my home letter, which 
is more important than all the papers on the continent. . . . 

Don't be worried if you don't hear regularly, or think 
us in danger. Switzerland is out of the mess, and if she 

Europe. 241 

gets in, we can skip over into Italy, and be as cosey as 
possible. It will make some difference in money, per- 
haps, as Munroe in Paris is our banker, and we shall be 
plagued about our letters, otherwise the war won't effect 
us a bit ; I dare say you know as much about it as we do, 
and Marmee is predicting " a civil war " all over the 
world. We hear accounts of the frightful heat with you. 
Don't wilt away before we come. . . . 

Lady Amberley is a trump, and I am glad she says a 
word for her poor sex though she is a peeress. . . . 

I should like to have said of me what Hedge says of 
Dickens ; and when I die, I should prefer such a mem- 
ory rather than a tomb in Westminster Abbey. 


I hope to have a good letter from Nan soon. May 
does the descriptions so well that I don't try it, being 
lazy. Lu. 

To Anna. 

SUNDAY, July 24, 1870. 

. . . The war along the Rhine is sending troops of 
travellers to Switzerland for refuge ; and all the large 
towns are brimful of people flying from Germany. It 
won't trouble us, for we have done France and don't 
mean to do Germany. So when August is over, we shall 
trot forward to Italy, and find a warm place for our win- 
ter-quarters. At any time twenty-four hours carries us 
over the Simplon, so we sit at ease and don't care a 
straw for old France and Prussia. Russia, it is reported, 
has joined in the fight, but Italy and England are not 
going to meddle, so we can fly to either " in case of 
fire." l 

1 This was a family joke as Mrs. Alcott always ended her in- 
structions to her children " in case of fire/' 


242 Louisa May Alcott. 

BEX, July 27, 1870. 

We heard of Dickens's death some weeks ago and have 
been reading notices, etc., in all the papers since. One 
by G. Greenwood in the Tribune was very nice. I shall 
miss my old Charlie, but he is not the old idol he once 
was. . . . 

Did you know that Higginson and a little girl friend 
had written out the Operatic Tragedy in " Little Women " 
and set the songs to music and it was all to be put in 
" Our Young Folks." What are we coming to in our old 
age? Also I hope to see the next designs N. has got for 
"Little Women." I know nothing about them. 

To her Mother. 

3 P.M., BEX, July 31, 1870. 

Papers are suppressed by the Government so we know 
nothing about the war, except the rumors that float about. 
But people seem to think that Europe is in for a general 
fight, and there is no guessing when it will end. 

The trouble about getting into Italy is, that civil war 
always breaks out there and things are so mixed up that 
strangers get into scrapes among the different squabblers. 
When the P.'s were abroad during the last Italian fuss, they 
got shut up in some little city and would have been killed 
by Austrians, who were rampaging round the place drunk 
and mad, if a woman had not hid them in a closet for a 
day and night, and smuggled them out at last, when they 
ran for their lives. I don't mean to get into any mess, 
and between Switzerland and England we can manage 
for a winter. London is so near home and so home-like 
that we shall be quite handy and can run up to Boston 
at any time. Perhaps Pa will step across to see us. 

All these plans may be knocked in the head to- 
morrow and my next letter may be dated from the Pope's 

Europe. 243 

best parlor or Windsor Castle ; but I like to spin about on 
ups and downs so you can have something to talk about 
at Apple Slump. Uncertainty gives a relish to things, so 
we chase about and have a dozen plans a day. It is an 
Alcott failing you know. . . . 
Love to all and bless you, 

Ever yours, Lu. 

BEX, Aug. 7, 1870. 

DEAR MR. NILES, I keep receiving requests from 
editors to write for their papers and magazines. I am 
truly grateful, but having come abroad for rest I am not 
inclined to try the treadmill till my year's vacation is 
over. So to appease these worthy gentlemen and excuse 
my seeming idleness I send you a trifle in rhyme', 1 which 
you can (if you think it worth the trouble) set going as 
a general answer to everybody ; for I can't pay postage 
in replies to each separately, " it 's very costly." Mr. 
F. said he would pay me $10, $15, $20 for any little 
things I would send him ; so perhaps you will let him 
have it first. 

The war makes the bankers take double toll on our 
money, so we feel very poor and as if we ought to be 
earning, not spending ; only we are so lazy we can't bear 
to think of it in earnest. . . . 

We shall probably go to London next month if the 
war forbids Italy for the winter ; and if we can't get one 
dollar without paying five for it, we shall come home 

Perhaps if I can do nothing else this year I could have 
a book of short stories, old and new, for Christmas. F. 
and F. have some good ones, and I have the right to 
use them. \Ve could call them " Jo March's Necessity 

1 This is the poem prefixed to the chapter. 

244 Louisa May Alcott. 

Stories." Would it go with new ones added and good 
illustrations ? 

I am rising from my ashes in a most phoenix- like 
manner. L. M. A. 

To her Mother. 

DEAR MARMEE, ... This house is very cosey, and 
the food excellent. I thought it would be when I heard 
gentlemen liked it, they always want good fodder. 
There are only three now, an old Spaniard and his son, 
and a young Frenchman. We see them at meals, and 
the girls play croquet with them. . . . 

This is the gay season here, and in spite of the war 
Vevay is full. The ex- Queen of Spain and her family 
are here at the Grand Hotel ; also Don Carlos, the right- 
ful heir to the Spanish throne. Our landlady says that 
her house used to be full of Spaniards, who every day 
went in crowds to call on the two kings, Alphonse and 
Carlos. We see brown men and women with black eyes 
driving round in fine coaches, with servants in livery, who 
I suppose are the Court people. 

The papers tell us that the French have lost two big 
battles ; the Prussians are in Strasbourg, and Paris in a 
state of siege. The papers are also full of theatrical 
messages from the French to the people, asking them to 
come up and be slaughtered for la patrie, and sober, 
cool reports from the Prussians. I side with the Prus- 
sians, for they sympathized with us in our war. Hooray 
for old Pruss ! . . . 

France is having a bad time. Princess Clotilda passed 
through Geneva the other day with loads of baggage, flying 
to Italy ; and last week a closed car with the imperial arms 
on it went by here in the night, supposed to be Matilde 

Europe. 245 

and other royal folks flying away from Paris. The Prince 
Imperial has been sent home from the seat of war ; and 
poor Eugenie is doing her best to keep things quiet in 
Paris. The French here say that a republic is already 
talked of; and the Emperor is on his last legs in every 
way. He is sick, and his doctor won't let him ride, and 
so nervous he can't command the army as he wanted to. 
Poor old man ! one can't help pitying him when all his 
plans fail. 

We still dawdle along, getting fat and hearty. The 
food is excellent. A breakfast of coffee and tip-top 
bread, fresh butter, with eggs or fried potatoes, at 8 ; a real 
French dinner at 1.30, of soup, fish, meat, game, salad, 
sweet messes, and fruit, with wine ; and at 7 cold meat, 
salad, sauce, tea, and bread and butter. It is grape time 
now, and for a few cents we get pounds, on which we feast 
all day at intervals. We walk and play as well as any 
one, and feel so well I ought to do something. . . . 

Fred and Jack would like to look out of my window 
now and see the little boys playing in the lake. They 
are there all day long like little pigs, r.nd lie around on 
the warm stones to dry, splashing one another for exer- 
cise. One boy, having washed himself, is now washing 
his clothes, and all lying out to dry together. . . . 

Ever yours, Lu. 

To Anna. 

VEVAY, Aug. 21, 1870. 

I had such a droll dream last night I must tell you. I 
thought I was returning to Concord after my trip, and 
was alone. As I walked from the station I missed Mr. 
Moore's house, and turning the corner, found the scene 
so changed that I did not know where I was. Our house 
was gone, and in its place stood a great gray stone castle, 

246 Louisa May Alcott. 

with towers and arches and lawns and bridges, very fine 
and antique. Somehow I got into it without meeting 
any one of you, and wandered about trying to find my 
family. At last I came across Mr. Moore, papering a 
room, and asked him where his house was. He did n't 
know me, and said, 

" Oh ! I sold it to Mr. Alcott for his school, and we 
live in Acton now." 

" Where did Mr. Alcott get the means to build this 
great concern?" I asked. 

" Well, he gave his own land, and took the great pas- 
ture his daughter left him, the one that died some ten 
years ago." 

"So I am dead, am I?" says I to myself, feeling so 

" Government helped build this place, and Mr. A. has a 
fine college here," Si id Mr. Moore, papering away again. 

I went on, wondering at the news, and looked into a 
glass to see how I looked dead. I found myself a fat old 
lady, with gray hair and specs, very like E. P. P. I 
laughed, and coming to a Gothic window, looked out and 
saw hundreds of young men and boys in a queer flowing 
dress, roaming about the parks and lawns ; and among 
them was Pa, looking as he looked thirty years ago, with 
brown hair and a big white neckcloth, as in the old times. 
He looked so plump and placid and young and happy I 
was charmed to see him, and nodded ; but he did n't 
know me ; and I was so grieved and troubled at be- 
ing a Rip Van Winkle, I cried, and said I had better go 
away and not disturb any one, and in the midst of my 
woe, I woke up. It was all so clear and funny, I can't 
help thinking that it may be a foreshadowing of something 
real. I used to dream of being famous, and it has partly 
become true ; so why not Pa's college blossom, and he 

Europe. 247 

get young and happy with his disciples ? I only hope he 
won't quite forget me when I come back, fat and gray 
and old. Perhaps his dream is to come in another world, 
where everything is fresh and calm, and the reason why 
he did n't recognize me was because I was still in this 
work-a-day world, and so felt old and strange in this 
lovely castle in the air. Well, he is welcome to my for- 
tune ; but the daughter who did die ten years ago is more 
likely to be the one who helped him build his School of 
Concord up aloft. 

I can see how the dream came ; for I had been looking 
at Silling's boys in their fine garden, and wishing I could 
go in and know the dear little lads walking about there, 
in the forenoon. I had got a topknot at the barber's, 
and talked about my gray hairs, and looking in the glass 
thought how fat and old I was getting, and had shown 
the B.'s Pa's picture, which they thought saintly, etc. I 
believe in dreams, though I am free to confess that 
" cowcumbers " for tea may have been the basis of this 
" ally-gorry-cal wision." . . . 

As we know the Consul at Spezzia, that is, we have 
letters to him, as well as to many folks in Rome, etc., 
I guess we shall go ; for the danger of Europe getting 
into the fight is over now, and we can sail to England or 
home any time from Italy. . . . Love to every one. 

Kiss my cousin for me. 

Ever your Lu. 

To Mr. Niles. 

AUGUST 23, 1870. 

Your note of August 2 has just come, with a fine 
budget of magazines and a paper, for all of which many 

248 Louisa May Alcott. 

Don't give my address to any one. I don't want the 
young ladies' notes. They can send them to Concord, 
and I shall get them next year. 


The boys at Silling's school are a perpetual source of 
delight to me ; and I stand at the gate, like the Peri, long- 
ing to go in and play with the lads. The young ladies 
who want to find live Lauries can be supplied here, for 
Silling has a large assortment always on hand. 

My B. says she is constantly trying to incite me to 
literary effort, but I hang fire. So I do, but only that 
I may go off with a bang by and by, a la mitrailleuse. 

L. M. A. 

To Jur Family. 

VEVAY, Aug. 29, 1870. 

DEAR PEOPLE, . . . M. Nicaud, the owner of this 
house, a funny old man, with a face so like a parrot 
that we call him M. Perrot, asked us to come and 
visit him at his chalet up among the hills. He is 
building a barn there, and stays to see that all goes 
well ; so we only see him on Sundays, when he con- 
vulses us by his funny ways. Last week seven of us 
went up in a big landau, and the old dear entertained 
us like a prince. We left the carriage at the foot of 
a little steep path, and climbed up to the dearest old 
chalet we ever saw. Here Pa Nicaud met us, took 
us up the outside steps into his queer little salon, and 
regaled us with his sixty-year old wine and nice little 
cakes. We then set forth, in spite of clouds and wind, 
to view the farm and wood. It showered at intervals, 
but no one seemed to care ; so we trotted about under 
umbrellas, getting mushrooms, flowers, and colds, viewing 
the Tarpeian Rock, and sitting on rustic seats to enjoy 

Europe. 249 

the belle vue, which consisted of fog. It was such a droll 
lark that we laughed and ran, and enjoyed the damp pic- 
nic very much. Then we had a tip- top Swiss dinner, fol- 
lowed by coffee, three sorts of wine, and cigars. Every 
one smoked, and as it poured guns, the old Perrot had 
a blazing fire made, round which we sat, talking many 
languages, singing, and revelling. We had hardly got 
through dinner and seen another foggy view when tea was 
announced, and we stuffed again, having pitchers of cream, 
fruit, and a queer but very nice dish of slices of light 
bread dipped in egg and fried, and eaten with sugar. 
The buxom Swiss maid flew and grinned, and kept serv- 
ing up some new mess from her tiny dark kitchen. It 
cleared off. and we walked home in spite of our immense 
exploits in the eating line. Old Perrot escorted us part 
way down, and we gave three cheers for him as we 
parted. Then we showed Madame and the French gov- 
erness and Don Juan (the Spanish boy) some tall walking, 
though the roads were very steep and rough and muddy. 
We tramped some five miles ; and our party (May, A., 
the governess, and I) got home long before Madame and 
Don Juan, who took a short cut, and would n't believe 
that we did n't get a lift somehow. I felt quite proud 
of my old pins ; for they were not tired, and none the 
worse for the long walk. I think they are really all right 
now, for the late cold weather has not troubled them in 
the least ; and I sleep O ye gods, how I do sleep ! ten 
or twelve hours sound, and get up so drunk with dizziness 
it is lovely to see. Aint I grateful? Oh, yes ! oh, yes ! 

We began French lessons to-day, May and I, of the 
French governess, a kind old girl who only asks two 
francs a lesson. We must speak the language, for it is 
disgraceful to be so stupid ; so we have got to work, and 
mean to be able to parlez-vous or die. The war is still 

250 Louisa May Alcott. 

a nuisance, and we may be here some time, and really 
need some work ; for we are so lazy we shall be spoilt, if 
we don't fall to. ... 

I gave Count C. Pa's message, and he was pleased. 
He reads no English, and is going to Hungary soon ; so 
Pa had better not send the book. . . . Lu. 

VEVAY, Sept. 10, 1870. 

DEAR PEOPLE, As all Europe seems to be going to 
destruction, I hasten to drop a line before the grand 
smash arrives. We mean to skip over the Alps next week, 
if weather and war permit ; for we are bound to see 
Milan and the lakes, even if we have to turn and come 
back without a glimpse of Rome. The Pope is beginning 
to perk up ; and Italy and England and Russia seem 
ready to join in the war, now that France is down. Think 
of Paris being bombarded and smashed up like Stras- 
bourg. We never shall see the grand old cathedral at 
Strasbourg now, it is so spoilt. 

Vevay is crammed with refugees from Paris and Stras- 
bourg. Ten families applied here yesterday. . . . 

Our house is brimful, and we have funny times. The 
sick Russian lady and her old Ma make a great fuss if a 
breath of air comes in at meal times, and expect twenty 
people to sit shut tight in a smallish room for an hour on 
a hot day. We protested, and Madame put them in the 
parlor, where they glower as we pass, and lock the door 
when they can. The German Professor is learning Eng- 
lish, and is a quiet, pleasant man. The Polish General, 
a little cracked, is very droll, and bursts out in the middle 
of the general chat with stories about transparent apples 
and golden horses. . . . Benda, the crack book-and- 
picture man, has asked May if she was the Miss Alcott 
who wrote the popular books ; for he said he had many calls 

Europe. 251 

for them, and wished to know where they could be found. 
We told him "at London," and felt puffed up. . . . 

May and I delve away at French ; but it makes my 
head ache, and I don't learn enough to pay for the 
trouble. I never could study, you know, and suffer such 
agony when I try that it is piteous to behold. The 
little brains I have left I want to keep for future works, 
and not exhaust them on grammar, vile invention 
of Satan ! May gets on slowly, and don't have fits after 
it ; so she had better go on (the lessons only cost two 
francs). ... L. M. A. 

To her Mother. 

LAGO DI COMO, Oct. 8, 1870. 

DEAREST MARMEE, A happy birthday, and many of 
'em ! Here we actually are in the long-desired Italy, and 
find it as lovely as we hoped. Our journey was a perfect 
success, sunlight, moonlight, magnificent scenery, pleas- 
ant company, no mishaps, and one long series of beautiful 
pictures all the way. 

Crossing the Simplon is an experience worth having ; 
for without any real danger, fatigue, or hardship, one 
sees some of the finest as well as most awful parts of these 
wonderful Alps. 

The road, a miracle in itself ! for all Nature seems 
to protest against it, and the elements never tire of trying 
to destroy it. Only a Napoleon would have dreamed of 
making a path through such a place ; and he only cared 
for it as a way to get his men and cannon into an enemy's 
country by this truly royal road. 

May has told you about our trip ; so I will only add a 
few bits that she forgot. 

Our start in the dawn from Brieg, with two diligences, 
a carriage, and a cart, was something between a funeral 

252 Louisa May Alcott. 

and a caravan : first an immense diligence with seven 
horses, then a smaller one with four, then our caleche 
with two, and finally the carrier's cart with one. It was 
very exciting, - - the general gathering of sleepy travellers 
in the dark square, the tramping of horses, the packing 
in, the grand stir of getting off; then the slow winding 
up, up, up out of the valley toward the sun, which came 
slowly over the great hills, rising as we never saw it rise 
before. The still, damp pine-forests kept us in shadow 
a long time after the white mountain-tops began to shine. 
Little by little we wound through a great gorge, and then 
the sun came dazzling between these grand hills, showing 
us a new world. Peak after peak of the Bernese Ober- 
land rose behind us, and great white glaciers lay before 
us ; while the road crept like a narrow line, in and out, 
over chasms that made us dizzy to look at, under tunnels, 
and through stone galleries with windows over which 
dashed waterfalls from the glaciers above. Here and 
there were refuges, a hospice, and a few chalets, where 
shepherds live their wild, lonely lives. In the p. M. 
we drove rapidly down toward Italy through the great 
Valley of Gondo, a deep rift in rock thousands of feet 
deep, and just wide enough for the road and a wild stream 
that was our guide ; a never-to-be-forgotten place, and a 
fit gateway to Italy, which soon lay smiling below us. 
The change is very striking ; and when we came to Lago 
Maggiore lying in the moonlight we could only sigh for 
happiness, and love and look and look. After a good 
night's rest at Stresa, we went in a charming gondola-sort 
of boat to see Isola Bella, the island you see in the 
chromo over the fireplace at home, - - a lovely island, 
with famous castle, garden, and town on it. The day was 
as balmy as summer, and we felt like butterflies after a 
frost, and fluttered about, enjoying the sunshine all day. 

Europe. 253 

A sail by steamer brought us to Luino, where we went 
on the diligence to Lugano. Moonlight all the way, and 
a gay driver, who wound his horn as we clattered into 
market-places and over bridges in the most gallant style. 
The girls were on top, and in a state of rapture all the 
way. After supper in a vaulted, frescoed hall, with marble 
floors, pillars, and galleries, we went to a room which had 
green doors, red carpet, blue walls, and yellow bed-covers, 
all so gay ! It was like sleeping ui a rainbow. 

As if a heavenly lake under our windows with moon- 
light ad libitum was n't enough, we had music next door ; 
and on leaning out of a little back window, we made the 
splendid discovery that we could look on to the stage 
of the opera-house across a little alley. My Nan can 
imagine with what rapture I stared at the scenes going 
on below me, and how I longed for her as I stood there 
wrapped in my yellow bed-quilt, and saw gallant knights 
in armor warble sweetly to plump ladies in masks, or 
pretty peasants fly wildly from ardent lovers in red tights ; 
also a dishevelled maid who tore her hair in a forest, 
while a man aloft made thunder and lightning, and / 
saw him do it ! 

It was the climax to a splendid day ; for few travellers 
can go to the opera luxuriously in their night-gowns, and 
take naps between the acts as I did. 

A lovely sail next morning down the lake ; then a 
carriage to Menaggio ; and then a droll boat, like a big 
covered market-wagon with a table and red-cushioned 
seats, took us and our trunks to Cadenabbia, for there is 
only a donkey road to the little town. At the hotel on 
the edge of the lake we found Nelly L., a sweet girl as 
lovely as Minnie, and so glad to see us ; for since her 
mother died in Venice last year she has lived alone with 
her maid. She had waited for us, and next day went to 

254 Louisa May Alcott. 

Milan, where we join her on Monday. She paints ; and 
May and she made plans at once to study together, and 
enjoy some of the free art-schools at Milan and Naples 
or Florence, if we can all be together. It is a great 
chance for May, and I mean she shall have a good time, 
and not wait for tools and teachers ; for all is in the way 
of her profession, and of use to her. 

Cadenabbia is only two hotels and a few villas oppo- 
site Bellagio, which is a town, and fashionable. We 
were rowed over to see it by our boatman, who spends 
his time at the front of the stone steps before the hotel, 
and whenever we go out he tells us, " The lake is tran- 
quil ; the hour is come for a walk on the water," and is 
as coaxing as only an Italian can be. He is amiably 
tipsy most of the time. 

To-day it rains so we cannot go out, and I rest and 
write to my Marmee in a funny room with a stone floor 
inlaid till it looks like castile soap, a ceiling in fat cupids 
and trumpeting fairies, a window on the lake, with bal- 
cony, etc. Hand-organs with jolly singing boys jingle 
all day, and two big bears go by led by a man with a 
drum. The boys would laugh to see them dance on 
their hind legs, and shoulder sticks like soldiers. 

... All looks well, and if the winter goes on rapidly 
and pleasantly as the summer we shall soon be thinking 
of home, unless one of us decides to stay. I shall post 
this at Milan to-morrow, and hope to find letters there 
from you. By-by till then. 


October, 1870. A memorable month. . . . Off for 
Italy on the 2d. A splendid journey over the Alps and 
Maggiore by moonlight. 

Europe. 255 

Heavenly days at the lakes, and so to Milan, Parma, 
Pisa, Bologna, and Florence. Disappointed in some 
things, but found Nature always lovely and wonderful ; 
so did n't mind faded pictures, damp rooms, and the 
cold winds of " sunny Italy." Bought furs at Florence, 
and arrived in Rome one rainy night. 

November \Qth. In Rome, and felt as if I had been 
there before and knew all about it. Always oppressed 
with a sense of sin, dirt, and general decay of all things. 
Not well ; so saw things through blue glasses. May in 
bliss with lessons, sketching, and her dreams. A. had 
society, her house, and old friends. The artists were 
the best company ; counts and princes very dull, what 
we saw of them. May and I went off on the Cam- 
pagna, and criticised all the world like two audacious 

Our apartment in Piazza Barbarini was warm and 
cosey; and I thanked Heaven for it, as it rained for 
two months, and my first view most of the time was the 
poor Triton with an icicle on his nose. 

We pay $60 a month for six good rooms, and $6 a 
month for a girl, who cooks and takes care of us. 

29/7*. My thirty-eighth birthday. May gave me a 
pretty sketch, and A. a fine nosegay. 

In Rome Miss Alcottwas shocked and grieved by 
the news of the death of her well-beloved brother- 
in-law, Mr. Pratt. She has drawn so beautiful a 
picture of him in " Little Women" and in " Little 
Men," that it is hardly needful to dwell upon his 
character or the grief which his death caused her. 
With her usual care for others, her thoughts at 
once turned to the support of the surviving family, 
and she found comfort in writing " Little Men ' 

256 Louisa May Alcott. 

with the thought of the dear sister and nephews 
constantly in her heart. 

In spite of this great sorrow and anxiety for 
the dear ones at home, the year of travel was very 
refreshing to her. Her companions were con- 
genial, she took great delight in her sister's work, 
and she was independent in her plans, and could 
go whither and when she would. 

The voyage home was a hard one ; there was small- 
pox on board, but Miss Alcott fortunately escaped 
the infection. " Little Men " \vas out the day she 
arrived, as a bright red placard in the carriage an- 
nounced, and besides all the loving welcomes from 
family and friends, she received the pleasing news 
that fifty thousand of the books were already sold. 

But the old pains and weariness came home with 
her also. She could not stay in Concord, and 
went again to Boston, hoping to rest and work. 
Her young sister came home to brighten up the 
family with her hopeful, helpful spirit. 

At forty years of age Louisa had accomplished 
the task she set for herself in youth. By unceasing 
toil she had made herself and her family indepen- 
dent; debts were all paid, and enough was in- 
vested to preserve them from want. And yet 
wants seemed to increase with their satisfaction, 
and she felt impelled to work enough to give to 
all the enjoyments and luxuries which were fitted 
to them after the necessaries were provided for. 
It may be that her own exhausted nervous con- 
dition made it impossible for her to rest, and the 
demand which she fancied came from without was 
the projection of her own thought. 

Europe. 257 


1871. Rome. Great inundation. Streets flooded, 
churches with four feet of water in them, and queer 
times for those who were in the overflowed quarters. 
Meals hoisted up at the window ; people carried across 
the river-like streets to make calls ; and all manner of 
funny doings. We were high and dry at Piazza Barbarini, 
and enjoyed the flurry. 

To the Capitol often, to spend the A. M. with the Roman 
emperors and other great men. M. Aurelius as a boy 
was fine ; Cicero looked very like W. Phillips ; Agrip- 
pina in her chair was charming ; but the other ladies, 
with hair a la sponge, were ugly; Nero & Co. a set 
of brutes and bad men. But a better sight to me was 
the crowd of poor people going to get the bread and 
money sent by the king ; and the splendid snow-covered 
hills were finer than the marble beauty inside. Art tires ; 
Nature never. 

Professor Pierce and his party just from Sicily, where 
they had been to see the eclipse, all beaming with 
delight, and well repaid for the long journey by a two 
minutes' squint at the sun when darkest. 

Began to write a new book, " Little Men," that John's 
death may not leave A. and the dear little boys in want. 
John took care that they should have enough while the 
boys are young, and worked very hard to have a little 
sum to leave, without a debt anywhere. 

In writing and thinking of the little lads, to whom I 
must be a father now, I found comfort for my sorrow. 
May went on with her lessons, "learning," as she wisely 
said, how little she knew and how to go on. 

February. A gay month in Rome, with the carnival, 
artists' fancy ball, many parties, and much calling. 


258 Louisa May Alcott. 

Decided to leave May for another year, as L. sends 
$700 on " Moods," and the new book will provide 
$1,000 for the dear girl; so she may be happy and free 
to follow her talent. 

March. Spent at Albano. A lovely place. Walk, 
write, and rest. A troop of handsome officers from 
Turin, who clatter by, casting soft glances at my two 
blonde signorinas, who enjoy it very much. 1 Baron and 
Baroness Rothschild were there, and the W.'s from Phila- 
delphia, Dr. O. W. and wife, and S. B. Mrs. W. and 
A. B. talk all day, May sketches, I write, and so we go 
on. Went to look at rooms at the Bonapartes. 

April. Venice. Floated about for two weeks seeing 
sights. A lovely city for a short visit. Not enough going 
on to suit brisk Americans. May painted, A. hunted up 
old jewelry and friends, and I dawdled after them. 

A very interesting trip to London, over the Bren- 
ner Pass to Munich, Cologne, Antwerp, and by boat to 

May. A busy month. Settled in lodgings, Brompton 
Road, and went sight-seeing. Mrs. P. Taylor, Conway, 
and others very kind. Enjoyed showing May my favorite 
places and people. 

A. B. went home on the nth, after a pleasant year 
with us. I am glad to know her, for she is true and very 
interesting. May took lessons of Rowbotham and was 
happy. " Little Men " came out in London. 

I decided to go home on the 25th, as I am needed. 
A very pleasant year in spite of constant pain, John's 
death, and home anxieties. Very glad I came, for May's 
sake. It has been a very useful year for her. 

June. - - After an anxious passage of twelve days, got 
safely home. Small-pox on board, and my room-mate, 

1 See Shawl Straps, p. 179. 

Europe. 259 

Miss D., very ill. I escaped, but had a sober time lying 
next door to her, waiting to see if my turn was to 
come. She was left at the island, and I went up the 
harbor with Judge Russell, who took some of us off in 
his tug. 

Father and T. N. came to meet me with a great red 
placard of " Little Men ' pinned up in the carriage. 
After due precautions, hurried home and found all well. 
My room refurnished and much adorned by Father's 

Nan well and calm, but under her sweet serenity is a 
very sad soul, and she mourns for her mate like a tender 

The boys were tall, bright lads, devoted to Marmee, 
and the life of the house. 

Mother feeble and much aged by this year of trouble. 
I shall never go far away from her again. Much com- 
pany, and loads of letters, all full of good wishes and 

" Little Men " was out the day I arrived. Fifty thou- 
sand sold before it was out. 

A happy month, for I felt well for the first time in two 
years. I knew it would n't last, but enjoyed it heartily 
while it did, and was grateful for rest from pain and a 
touch of the old cheerfulness. It was much needed at 

July, August, September. Sick. Holiday soon over. 
Too much company and care and change of climate 
upset the poor nerves again. Dear Uncle S. J. May 
died ; our best friend for years. Peace to his ashes. 
He leaves a sweeter memory behind him than any man 
I know. Poor Marmee is the last of her family now. 

October. Decided to go to B. ; Concord is so hard 
for me, with its dampness and worry. Get two girls to 

260 Loiiisa May Alcott. 

do the work, and leave plenty of money and go to 
Beacon Street to rest and try to get well that I may 
work. A lazy life, but it seemed to suit ; and anything 
is better than the invalidism I hate worse than death. 

Bones ached less, and I gave up morphine, as sun- 
shine, air, and quiet made sleep possible without it. Saw 
people, pictures, plays, and read all I could, but did not 
enjoy much, for the dreadful weariness of nerves makes 
even pleasure hard. 

November. May sent pleasant letters and some fine 
copies of Turner. She decides to come home, as she 
feels she is needed as I give out. Marmee is feeble, 
Nan has her boys and her sorrow, and one strong head 
and hand is wanted at home. A year and a half of holi- 
day is a good deal, and duty comes first always. Sorry 
to call her back, but her eyes are troublesome, and 
housework will rest them and set her up. Then she can 
go again when I am better, for I don't want her to be 
thwarted in her work more than just enough to make 
her want it very much. 

On the 1 9th she came. Well, happy, and full of sen- 
sible plans. A lively time enjoying the cheerful element 
she always brings into the house. Piles of pictures, 
merry adventures, and interesting tales of the fine Lon- 
don lovers. 

Kept my thirty-ninth and Father's seventy-second 
birthday in the old way. 

Thanksgiving dinner at Pratt Farm. All well and all 
together. Much to give thanks for. 

December. Enjoyed my quiet, sunny room very 
much ; and this lazy life seems to suit me, for I am 
better, mind and body. All goes well at home, with 
May to run the machine in her cheery, energetic style, 
and amuse Marmee and Nan with gay histories. Had a 

Europe. 261 

furnace put in, and all enjoyed the new climate. No 
more rheumatic fevers and colds, with picturesque open 
fires. Mother is to be cosey if money can do it. She 
seems to be now, and my long-cherished dream has come 
true ; for she sits in a pleasant room, with no work, no 
care, no poverty to worry, but peace and comfort all 
about her, and children glad and able to stand between 
trouble and her. Thank the Lord ! I like to stop and 
" remember my mercies." Working and waiting for them 
makes them very welcome. 

Went to the ball for the Grand Duke Alexis. A fine 
sight, and the big blonde boy the best of all. Would 
dance with the pretty girls, and leave the Boston dowa- 
gers and their diamonds in the lurch. 

To the Radical Club, where the philosophers mount 
their hobbies and prance away into time and space, while 
we gaze after them and try to look wise. 

A merry Christmas at home. Tree for the boys, 
family dinner, and frolic in the evening. 

A varied, but on the whole a good year, in spite of 
pain. Last Christmas we were in Rome, mourning for 
John. What will next Christmas bring forth ? I have no 
ambition now but to keep the family comfortable and not 
ache any more. Pain has taught me patience, I hope, if 
nothing more. 

January, 1872. Roberts Brothers paid $4,400 as six 
months' receipts for the books. A fine New Year's gift. 
S. E. S. invested $3,000, and the rest I put in the bank 
for family needs. Paid for the furnace and all the bills. 
What bliss it is to be able to do that and ask no help ! 

Mysterious bouquets came from some unknown ad- 
mirer or friend. Enjoyed them very much, and felt 
quite grateful and romantic as day after day the lovely 

262 Louisa May Alcott. 

great nosegays were handed in by the servant of the 

February and March. At Mrs. Stowe's desire, wrote 
for the "Christian Union' an account of our journey 
through France, and called it " Shawl Straps." . . . 
Many calls and letters and invitations, but I kept quiet, 
health being too precious to risk, and sleep still hard to 
get for the brain that would work instead of rest. 

Heard lectures, Higginson, Bartol, Frothingham, and 
Rabbi Lilienthal. Much talk about religion. I 'd like 
to see a little more really lived. 

April and May. Wrote another sketch for the " In- 
dependent," "A French Wedding ;" and the events 
of my travels paid my winter's expenses. All is fish that 
comes to the literary net. Goethe puts his joys and sor- 
rows into poems ; I turn my adventures into bread and 

June, 1872. Home, and begin a new task. Twenty 
vears ago I resolved to make the family independent if I 
could. At forty that is done. Debts all paid, even the 
outlawed ones, and we have enough to be comfortable. 
It has cost me my health, perhaps ; but as I still live, 
there is more for me to do, I suppose. 




Lines written by Louisa M. Alcott on the death of her mother. 

MYSTERIOUS death I who in a single hour 

Life's gold can so refine, 

And by thy art divine 
Change mortal weakness to immortal power 1 

Bending beneath the weight of eighty years, 

Spent with the noble strife 

Of a victorious life, 
We watched her fading heavenward, through our tears. 

But ere the sense of loss our hearts had wrung, 

A miracle was wrought ; 

And swift as happy thought 
She lived again, brave, beautiful, and young. 

Age, pain, and sorrow dropped the veils they wore 

And showed the tender eyes 

Of angels in disguise, 
Whose discipline so patiently she bore. 

The past years brought their harvest rich and fair ; 

While memory and love, 

Together, fondly wove 
A golden garland for the silver hair. 

1 This poem was first published anonymously in " The Masque 
of Poets," in 1878. 

264 Louisa May Alcott. 

How could we mourn like those who are bereft, 

When every pang of grief 

Found balm for its relief 
In counting up the treasures she had left ? 

Faith that withstood the shocks of toil and time; 

Hope that defied despair ; 

Patience that conquered care ; 
And loyalty, whose courage was sublime ; 

The great deep heart that was a home for all, 

Just, eloquent, r.nd strong 

In protect Against wrong; 
Wide charity, that knew no sin, no fall ; 

The spartan spirit that made life so grand, 

Mating poor daily needs 

\Vith high, heroic deeds, 
That wrested happiness from Fate's hard hand. 

We thought to weep, but sing for joy instead, 

Full of the grateful peace 

That follows her release ; 
For nothing but the weary dust lies dead. 

Oh, noble woman ! never more a queen 

Than in the laying down 

Of sceptre and of crown 
To win a greater kingdom, yet unseen : 

Teaching us how to seek the highest goal, 

To earn the true success, 

To live, to love, to bless, 
And make death proud to take a royal soul. 

THE history of the next six years offers little 
variety of incident in Miss Alcott's busy life. 
She could not work at home in Concord as well as 
in some quiet lodging in Boston, where she was 
more free from interruption from visitors; but she 
spent her summers with her mother, often taking 
charge of the housekeeping. In 1872 she wrote 
" Work," one of her most successful books. She 

Fa m ily Ch a nges . 265 

had begun it some time before, and originally 
called it " Success." It represents her own per- 
sonal experience more than any other book. She 
says to a friend: "Christie's adventures are many 
of them my own; Mr. Power is Mr. Parker; Mrs. 
Wilkins is imaginary, and all the rest. This was 
begun at eighteen, and never finished till H. W. 
Beecher wrote to me for a serial fjr the ' Christian 
Union' in 1872, and paid $3,000 for it." 

Miss Alcott again sent T lay to Europe in 1873 
to finish her studies, and herself continued writing 
stories to pay the expense:- of the family. The 
mother's serious illness weighed heavily on Louisa's 
heart, and through the summer of 1873 she was 
devoted to the invalid, rejoicing in her partial re- 
covery, though sadly feeling that she would never 
be her bright energetic self again. Mrs. Alcott 
was able, however, to keep her birthday (Octo- 
ber 8) pleasantly, and out of this experience came 
a story called " A Happy Birthday." This little 
tale paid for carriages for the invalid. It is in- 
cluded in " Aunt Jo's Scrap-Bag." 

Louisa and her mother decided to spend the 
winter in Boston, while Mr. Alcott was at the 
West. Her thoughts dwell much upon her fath- 
er's life, and she is not content that he has not 
all the recognition and enjoyment that she would 
gladly give him. She helps her mother to perform 
the sacred duty of placing a tablet on Colonel 
May's grave, and the dear old lady recognizes 
that her life has gone down into the past, and 
says, " This is n't my Boston, and I never want to 
see it any more." 

266 Louisa May Alcott. 

Louisa was at this time engaged in writing for 
" St. Nicholas " and " The Independent." 

The return of the young artist, happy in her 
success, brings brightness to the home-circle. In 
the winter of 1875 Miss Alcott takes her old place 
at the Bellevue, where May can have her drawing- 
classes. She was herself ill, and the words, " No 
sleep without morphine ! " tell the story of nervous 



July, 1872. May makes a lovely hostess, and I fly 
round behind the scenes, or skip out of the back win- 
dow when ordered out for inspection by the inquisitive 
public. Hard work to keep things running smoothly, 
for this sight-seeing fiend is a new torment to us. 

August. May goes to Clark's Island for rest, having 
kept hotel long enough. I say " No," and shut the 
door. People must learn that authors have some rights ; 
I can't entertain a dozen a day, and write the tales they 
demand also. I 'm but a human worm, and when walked 
on must turn in self-defence. 

Reporters sit on the wall and take notes ; artists 
sketch me as I pick pears in the garden ; and strange 
women interview Johnny as he plays in the orchard. 

It looks like impertinent curiosity to me ; but it is 
called " fame," and considered a blessing to be grateful 
for, I find. Let 'em try it. 

September. To Wolcott, with Father and Fred. A 
quaint, lovely old place is the little house on Spindle 
Hill, where the boy Amos dreamed the dreams that have 
come true at last. 

Got hints for my novel, "The Cost of an Idea," if I 
ever find time to write it. 

Family Changes. 267 

Don't wonder the boy longed to climb those hills, and 
see what lay beyond. 

October. Went to a room in Allston Street, in a 
quiet, old-fashioned house. I can't work at home, and 
need to be alone to spin, like a spider. 

Rested ; walked ; to the theatre now and then. Home 
once a week with books, etc., for Marmee and Nan. 
Prepared " Shawl Straps ' for Roberts. 

November. Forty on the 29th. Got Father off for 
the West, all neat and comfortable. I enjoyed every 
penny spent, and had a happy time packing his new 
trunk with warm flannels, neat shirts, gloves, etc., and 
seeing the dear man go off in a new suit, overcoat, hat, 
and all, like a gentleman. We both laughed over the 
pathetic old times with tears in our eyes, and I reminded 
him of the " poor as poverty, but serene as heaven ' 

Something to do came just as I was trying to see what 
to take up, for work is my salvation. H. W. Beecher 
sent one of the editors of the " Christian Union " to ask 
for a serial story. They have asked before, and offered 
$2,000, which I refused ; now they offered $3,000, and 
I accepted. 

Got out the old manuscript of " Success," and called it 
" Work." Fired up the engine, and plunged into a vortex, 
with many doubts about getting out. Can't work slowly ; 
the thing possesses me, and I must obey till it 's done. 
One thousand dollars was sent as a seal on the bargain, 
so I was bound, and sat at the oar like a galley-slave. 

F. wanted eight little tales, and offered $35 apiece ; 
used to pay $10. Such is fame ! At odd minutes I 
wrote the short ones, and so paid my own expenses. 
" Shawl Straps," Scrap-Bag, No. 2, came out, and 
went well. 

268 Louisa May Alcott. 

Great Boston fire ; up all night. Very splendid and 
terrible sight. 

December. Busy with "Work." Write three pages 
at once on impression paper, as Beecher, Roberts, and 
Low of London all want copy at once. 

[This was the cause of the paralysis of my thumb, which 
disabled me for the rest of my life. L. M. A.] 

Nan and the boys came to visit me, and break up the 
winter. Rested a little, and played with them. 

Father very busy and happy. On his birthday had 
a gold-headed cane given him. He is appreciated out 

During these western trips, Mr. Alcott found 
that his daughter's fame added much to the 
warmth of his reception. On his return he loved 
to tell how he was welcomed as the " grandfather 
of* Little Women.' When he visited schools, he 
delighted the young audiences by satisfying their 
curiosity as to- the author of their favorite book, 
and the truth of the characters and circumstances 

described in it. 

BOSTON, 1872. 

DEAR MARMEE, Had a very transcendental day yes- 
terday, and at night my head was " swelling wisibly " with 
the ideas cast into it. 

The club was a funny mixture of rabbis and weedy 
old ladies, the " oversoul " and oysters. Papa and B. 
flew clean out of sight like a pair of Platonic balloons, 
and we tried to follow, but could n't. 

In the P.M. went to R. W. E.'s reading. All the liter- 
ary birds were out in full feather. This " 'umble " worm 
was treated with distinguished condescension. Dr. B. gave 
me his noble hand to press, and murmured compliments 

Family Changes. 269 

with the air of a bishop bestowing a benediction. Dear 
B. beamed upon me from the depths of his funny little 
cloak and said, "We are getting on well, ain't we?' 
W. bowed his Jewish head, and rolled his fine eye at me. 
' Several dreadful women purred about me, and I fled. 

M. said what I liked, that he 'd sent my works to 
his mother, and the good old lady told him to tell me 
that she could n't do a stroke of work, but just sat and 
read 'em right through ; she wished she was young so as 
to have a long life in which to keep on enjoying such 
books. The peacock liked that. 

I have paid all my own expenses out of the money 
earned by my little tales ; so I have not touched the 
family income. 

Did n't mean to write ; but it has been an expensive 
winter, and my five hundred has made me all right. The 
$500 I lent K. makes a difference in the income ; but I 
could not refuse her, she was so kind in the old hard 

At the reading a man in front of me sat listening and 
knitting his brows for a time, but had to give it up and 
go to sleep. After it was over some one said to him, 
" Well, what do you think of it? " " It's all very fine I 
have no doubt ; but I 'm blessed if I can understand a 
word of it," was the reply. . . . 

The believers glow when the oracle is stuck, rustle and 
beam when he is audible, and nod and smile as if they 
understood perfectly when he murmurs under the desk ! 
We are a foolish set ! 


January, 1873. Getting on well with " Work ; " have 
to go slowly now for fear of a break-down. All well at 

270 Louisa May Alcott. 

A week at Newport with Miss Jane Stewart. Dinners, 
balls, calls, etc. Saw Higginson and " H. H." Soon 
tired of gayety, and glad to get home to my quiet den 
and pen. 

Roberts Brothers paid me $2,022 for books. S. E. S. 
invested most of it, with the $1,000 F. sent. Gave C. M. 
$100, a thank-offering for my success. I like to help 
the class of " silent poor " to which we belonged for so 
many years, needy, but respectable, and forgotten be- 
cause too proud to beg. Work difficult to find for such 
people, and life made very hard for want of a little money 
to ease the necessary needs. 

February and March. Anna very ill with pneumonia ; 
home to nurse her. Father telegraphed to come home, 
as we thought her dying. She gave me her boys ; but 
the dear saint got well, and kept the lads for herself. 
Thank God ! 

Back to my work with what wits nursing left me. 

Had Johnny for a week, to keep all quiet at home. 
Enjoyed the sweet little soul very much, and sent him 
back much better. 

Finished " Work," twenty chapters. Not what it 
should be, too many interruptions. Should like to do 
one book in peace, and see if it would n't be good. 

April. The job being done I went home to take 
May's place. Gave her $1,000, and sent her to London 
for a year of study. She sailed on the 26th, brave and 
happy and hopeful. I felt that she needed it, and was 
glad to be able to help her. 

I spent seven months in Boston ; wrote a book and 
ten tales; earned $3,250 by my pen, and am satisfied 
with my winter's work. 

May, D. F. wanted a dozen little tales, and agreed 
to pay $50 apiece, if I give up other things for this. 

Family Changes. 271 

Said I would, as I can do two a day, and keep house be- 
tween times. Cleaned and grubbed, and didn't mind 
the change. Let head rest, and heels and feet do the 

Cold and dull ; but the thought of May free and happy 
was my comfort as I messed about. 

June and July. Settled the servant question by get- 
ting a neat American woman to cook and help me with 
the housework. 

Peace fell upon our troubled souls, and all went well. 
Good meals, tidy house, cheerful service, and in the p. M. 
an intelligent young person to read and sew with us. 

It was curious how she came to us. She had taught 
and sewed, and was tired, and wanted something else ; 
decided to try for a housekeeper's place, but happened 
to read " Work," and thought she 'd do as Christie did, 

take anything that came. 

I was the first who answered her advertisement, and 
when she found I wrote the book, she said, " I '11 go and 
see if Miss A. practises as she preaches." 

She found I did, and we had a good time together. 
My new helper did so well I took pale Johnny to the 
seaside for a week ; but was sent for in haste, as poor 
Marmee was very ill. Mental bewilderment came after 
one of her heart troubles (the dropsy affected the brain), 
and for three weeks we had a sad time. Father and I 
took care of her, and my good A. S. kept house nicely 
and faithfully for me. 

Marmee slowly came back to herself, but sadly feeble, 

never to be our brave, energetic leader any more. 
She felt it, and it was hard to convince her that there was 
no need of her doing anything but rest. 

August, September, October. Mother improved stead- 
ily. Father went to the Alcott festival in Walcott, A. 

272 Louisa May Alcott. 

and boys to Conway for a month ; and it did them all 
much good. 

I had quiet days with Marmee ; drove with her, and 
had the great pleasure of supplying all her needs and 

May busy and happy in London. A merry time on 
Mother's birthday, October 8. All so glad to have her 
still here ; for it seemed as if we were to lose her. 

Made a little story of it for F., " A Happy Birth- 
day," and spent the $50 in carriages for her. 

November and December. Decided that it was best 
not to try a cold, lonely winter in C., but go to B. with 
Mother, Nan, and boys, and leave Father free for the 

Took sunny rooms at the South End, near the Park, 
so the lads could play out and Marmee walk. She en- 
joyed the change, and sat at her window watching people, 
horse-cars, and sparrows with great interest. Old friends 
came to see her, and she was happy. Found a nice 
school for the boys ; and Nan enjoyed her quiet days. 

January, 1874. Mother quite ill this month. Dr. 
Wesselhoeft does his best for the poor old body, now 
such a burden to her. The slow decline has begun, 
and she knows it, having nursed her mother to the 
same end. 

Father disappointed and rather sad, to be left out of 
so much that he would enjoy and should be asked to 
help and adorn. A little more money, a pleasant house 
and time to attend to it, and I 'd bring all the best people 
to see and entertain him. When I see so much twaddle 
going on I wonder those who can don't get up something 
better, and have really good things. 

When I had the youth I had no money ; now I have 
the money I have no time ; and when I get the time, if 

Fa m ily CJi a nges . 273 

I ever do, I shall have no health to enjoy life. I suppose 
it 's the discipline I need ; but it 's rather hard to love the 
things I do and see them go by because duty chains me 
to my galley. If I come into port at last with all sail set 
that will be reward perhaps. 

Life always was a puzzle to me, and gets more mysteri- 
ous as I go on. I shall find it out by and by and see 
that it 's all right, if I can only keep brave and patient to 
the end. 

May still in London painting Turners, and doing pretty 
panels as " pot-boilers." They sell well, and she is a 
thrifty child. Good luck to our mid-summer girl. 

February. Father has several conversations at the 
Clubs and Societies and Divinity School. No one pays 
anything ; but they seem glad to listen. There ought to 
be a place for him. 

Nan busy with her boys, and they doing well at school, 
good, gay, and intelligent ; a happy mother and most 
loving little sons. 

I wrote two tales, and got $200. Saw Charles Kings- 
ley, a pleasant man. His wife has Alcott relations, 
and likes my books. Asked us to come and see him 
in England ; is to bring his daughters to Concord by 
and by. 

March. May came home with a portfolio full of fine 
work. Must have worked like a busy bee to have done 
so much. 

Very happy in her success ; for she has proved her 
talent, having copied Turner so well that Ruskin (meet- 
ing her in the National Gallery at work) told her that 
she had " caught Turner's spirit wonderfully." She has 
begun to copy Nature, and done well. Lovely sketches 
of the cloisters in Westminster Abbey, and other charm- 
ing things. 


274 Louisa May Alcott. 

I write a story for all my men, and make up the $1,000 
I planned to earn by my " pot-boilers ' before we go 
back to C. 

A tablet to Grandfather May is put in Stone Chapel, 
and one Sunday A. M. we take Mother to see it. A 
pathetic sight to see Father walk up the broad aisle with 
the feeble old wife on his arm as they went to be married 
nearly fifty years ago. Mother sat alone in the old pew 
a little while and sung softly the old hymns ; for it was 
early, and only the sexton there. He asked who she was, 
and said his father was sexton in Grandfather's time. 

Several old ladies came in and knew Mother. She 
broke down thinking of the time when she and her mother 
and sisters and father and brothers all went to church to- 
gether, and we took her home saying, "This isn't my 
Boston ; all my friends are gone ; I never want to see it 
any more." 

[She never did. L. M. A.] 

April and May. Back to Concord, after May and I 
had put all in fine order and made the old house lovely 
with her pictures. When all were settled, with May to 
keep house, I went to B. for rest, and took a room in 
Joy Street. 

The Elgin Watch Company offered me a gold watch or 
$100 for a tale. Chose the money, and wrote the story 
" My Rococo Watch " J for them. 

October. Took two nice rooms at the Hotel Bellevue 
for the winter ; May to use one for her classes. Tried to 
work on my book, but was in such pain could not do 
much. Got no sleep without morphine. Tried old Dr. 
Hewett, who was sure he could cure the woe. . . . 

November. Funny time with the publishers about the 

1 In Spinning-Wheel Stories. 

Family Changes. 275 

tale ; for all wanted it at once, and each tried to outbid 
the other for an unwritten story. I rather enjoyed it, and 
felt important with Roberts, Low, and Scribner all clam- 
oring for my " 'umble " works. No peddling poor little 
manuscripts now, and feeling rich with $10. The golden 
goose can sell her eggs for a good price, if she is n't killed 
by too much driving. 

December. Better and busier than last month. 

All well at home, and Father happy among his kind 
Westerners. Finish " Eight Cousins," and get ready to 
do the temperance tale, for F. offers $700 for six 
chapters, " Silver Pitchers." 

January, 1875. . . . Father flourishing about the 
Western cities, " riding in Louisa's chariot, and adored 
as the grandfather of ' Little Women,' he says. 

February. Finish my tale and go to Vassar College 
on a visit. See M. M., talk with four hundred girls, write 
in stacks of albums and school-books, and kiss every one 
who asks me. Go to New York ; am rather lionized, 
and run away ; but things look rather jolly, and I may 
try a winter there some time, as I need a change and 
new ideas. 

March. Home again, getting ready for the centen- 
nial fuss. 

April. On the ipth a grand celebration. General 
break-down, owing to an unwise desire to outdo all the 
other towns ; too many people. . . . 

Miss Alcott was very much interested in the 
question of Woman Suffrage, and exerted herself 
to get up a meeting in Concord. The subject was 
then very unpopular, and there was an ill-bred 
effort to destroy the meeting by noise and riot. 
Although not fond of speaking in public, she 

276 Louisa May Alcott. 

always put herself bravely on the side of the un- 
popular cause, and lent to it all the argument of 
her heroic life. When Mrs. Livermore lectured 
at Concord, Miss Alcott sat up all night talking 
with her on the great question. She had an oppor- 
tunity of trying which was most exhausting, abuse 
or admiration, when she went to a meeting of the 
Women's Congress at Syracuse, in October. She 
was introduced to the audience by Mrs. Liver- 
more, and the young people crowded about her 
like bees about a honeycomb. She was waylaid 
in the streets, petitioned for autographs, kissed by 
gushing young maidens, and made emphatically 
the lion of the hour. It was all so genial and 
spontaneous, that she enjoyed the fun. No amount 
of adulation ever affected the natural simplicity of 
her manners. She neither despised nor overrated 
her fame ; but was glad of it as a proof of suc- 
cess in what she was ever aiming to do. She spent 
a few weeks in New York enjoying the gay and 
literary society which was freely opened to her ; 
but finding most satisfaction in visiting the 
Tombs, Newsboys' Home, and Randall's Island, 
for she liked these things better than parties and 


June, July, August, 1875. Kept house at home, with 
two Irish incapables to trot after, and ninety-two guests 
in one month to entertain. Fame is an expensive lux- 
ury. I can do without it. This is my worst scrape, I 
think. I asked for bread, and got a stone, in the 
shape of a pedestal. 

Family Changes. 277 

September and October, 1875. I g to Woman's 
Congress in Syracuse, and see Niagara. Funny time 
with the girls. 

Write loads of autographs, dodge at the theatre, and 
am kissed to death by gushing damsels. One energetic 
lady grasped my hand in the crowd, exclaiming, " If you 
ever come to Oshkosh, your feet will not be allowed to 
touch the ground : you will be borne in the arms of the 
people! Will you come? ' ; "Never," responded Miss 
A., trying to look affable, and dying to laugh as the good 
soul worked my arm like a pump-handle, and from the 
gallery generations of girls were looking on. " This, 
this, is fame ! ' 

November, December. Take a room at Bath Hotel, 
New York, and look about me. Miss Sally Holly is here, 
and we go about together. She tells me much of her 
life among the freedmen, and Mother is soon deep in 
barrels of clothes, food, books, etc., for Miss A. to take 
back with her. 

See many people, and am very gay for a country-mouse. 
Society unlike either London or Boston. 

Go to Sorosis, and to Mrs. Botta's, O. B. Frothing- 
ham's, Miss Booth's, and Mrs. Croly's receptions. 

Visit the Tombs, Newsboys' Home, and Randall's 
Island on Christmas Day with Mrs. Gibbons. A mem- 
orable day. Make a story of it. Enjoy these things 
more than the parties and dinners. 

To Mrs. Dodge. 

NEW YORK, Oct. 5, 1875. 

DEAR MRS. DODGE, So far, New York seems invit- 
ing, though I have not seen or done much but " gawk 
round " as the country folks do. I have seen Niagara, and 

278 Louisa May Alcott. 

enjoyed my vacation very much, especially the Woman's 
Congress in Syracuse. I was made a member, so have 
the honor to sign myself, 

Yours truly, L. M. ALCOTT, M. C. 

To her Father. 

NEW YORK, Nov. 26, 1875. 

DEAR SEVENTY-SIX, As I have nothing else to send 
you on our joint birthday, I '11 despatch a letter about 
some of the people I have lately seen in whom you take 
an interest. 

Tuesday we heard Gough on " Blunders," and it was 
very good, both witty and wise, earnest and sensible. 
Wednesday eve to Mr. Frothingham's for his Fraternity 
Club meeting. Pleasant people. Ellen F. ; Abby Sage 
Richardson, a very lovely woman ; young Putnam and 
wife ; Mrs. Stedman ; Mattie G. and her spouse, Dr. B., 
who read a lively story of Mormon life ; Mrs. Dodge ; 
O. Johnson and wife, and many more whose names I 

After the story the given subject for discussion was 
brought up, " Conformity and Noncomformity." Mr. 
B., a promising young lawyer, led one side, Miss B. the 
other, and Mr. F. was in the chair. It was very lively ; 
and being called upon, I piped up, and went in for non- 
conformity when principle was concerned. Got patted 
on the head for my remarks, and did n't disgrace my- 
self except by getting very red and talking fast. 

Ellen F. was very pleasant, and asked much about 
May. Proudly I told of our girl's achievements, and E. 
hoped she would come to New York. Mrs. Richardson 
was presented, and we had some agreeable chat. She 
is a great friend of O. B. F., and is lecturing here on 

Family Changes. 279 

" Literature." Shall go and hear her, as she is coming 
to see me. 

O. B. F. was as polished and clear and cool and witty 
as usual ; most gracious to the " 'umble " Concord worm ; 
and Mrs. F. asked me to come and see them. 

Yesterday took a drive with Sally H. in Central Park 
as it was fine, and she had no fun on her Thanksgiving. 
I dined at Mrs. Botta's, for she kindly came and asked 
me. Had a delightful time, and felt as if I 'd been to 
Washington ; for Professor Byng, a German ex-consul, 
was there, full of Capitol gossip about Sumner and all 
the great beings that there do congregate. Mr. Botta 
you know, a handsome, long-haired Italian, very culti- 
vated and affable. 

Also about Lord H., whom B. thought " an amiable 
old woman," glad to say pretty things, and fond of being 
lionized. Byng knew Rose and Una, and asked about 
them ; also told funny tales of Victor Emmanuel and his 
Court, and queer adventures in Greece, where he, B., 
was a consul, or something official. It was a glimpse 
into a new sort of world ; and as the man was very 
accomplished, elegant, and witty, I enjoyed it much. 

We had music later, and saw some fine pictures. 
Durant knew Miss Thackeray, J. Ingelow, and other 
English people whom I did, so we had a good dish of 
gossip with Mrs. Botta, while the others talked three or 
four languages at once. 

It is a delightful house, and I shall go as often as I 
may, for it is the sort of thing I like much better than 
B. H. and champagne. 

To-night we go to hear Bradlaugh ; to-morrow, a new 
play ; Sunday, Frothingham and Bellows ; and Monday, 
Mrs. Richardson and Shakespeare. 

But it isn't all play, I assure you. I 'm a thrifty but- 

2 So Louisa May Alcott. 

terfly, and have written three stories. The " G." has 
paid for the little Christmas tale ; the " I." has " Letty's 
Tramp ; ' and my " girl paper ' : for " St. Nick ' is 
about ready. Several other papers are waiting for tales, 
so I have a ballast of work to keep me steady in spite of 
much fun. 

Mr. Powell has been twice to see me, and we go to 
visit the charities of New York next week. I like to see 
both sides, and generally find the busy people most 

So far I like New York very much, and feel so well I 
shall stay on till I 'm tired of it. People begin to tell 
me how much better I look than when I came, and 
I have not an ache to fret over. This, after such a long 
lesson in bodily ails, is a blessing for which I am duly 

Hope all goes well with you, and that I shall get a line 
now and then. I '11 keep them for you to bind up by 
and by instead of mine. . . . 

We can buy a carriage some other time, and a barn 
likewise, and a few other necessities of life. Rosa has 
proved such a good speculation we shall dare to let May 
venture another when the ship comes in. I am glad the 
dear "rack-a-bones ' : is a comfort to her mistress, only 
don't let her break my boy's bones by any antics when 
she feels her oats. 

I suppose you are thinking of Wilson just now, and 
his quiet slipping away to the heavenly council chambers 
where the good senators go. Rather like Sumner's end, 
was n't it ? No wife or children, only men and servants. 
Wilson was such a genial, friendly soul I should have 
thought he would have felt the loneliness very much. 
Hope if he left any last wishes his mates will carry them 
out faithfully. . . . 

Family Changes. 281 

Now, dear Plato, the Lord bless you, and keep you 
serene and happy for as many years as He sees fit, and 
me likewise, to be a comfort as well as a pride to you. 

Ever your loving FORTY-THREE. 

To her Nephews. 

NEW YORK, Dec. 4, 1875. 

DEAR FRED AND DONNY, We went to see the news- 
boys, and I wish you 'd been with us, it was so interest- 
ing. A nice big house has been built for them, with 
dining-room and kitchen on the first floor, bath-rooms 
and school-room next, two big sleeping-places, third and 
fourth stories, and at the top a laundry and gymnasium. 
We saw all the tables set for breakfast, a plate and 
bowl for each, and in the kitchen great kettles, four 
times as big as our copper boiler, for tea and coffee, 
soup, and meat. They have bread and meat and coffee 
for breakfast, and bread and cheese and tea for supper, 
and get their own dinners out. School was just over 
when we got there, and one hundred and eighty boys 
were in the immense room with desks down the middle, 
and all around the walls were little cupboards numbered. 
Each boy on coming in gives his name, pays six cents, 
gets a key, and puts away his hat, books, and jacket (if 
he has 'em) in his own cubby for the night. They pay 
five cents for supper, and schooling, baths, etc., are free. 
They were a smart-looking set, larking round in shirts 
and trousers, barefooted, but the faces were clean, and 
the heads smooth, and clothes pretty decent ; yet they 
support themselves, for not one of them has any parents 
or home but this. One little chap, only six, was trotting 
round as busy as a bee, locking up his small shoes and 
ragged jacket as if they were great treasures. I asked 

282 Louisa May Alcott. 

about little Pete, and the man told us his brother, only 
nine, supported him and took care of him entirely ; and 
would n't let Pete be sent away to any home, because he 
wished to have " his family " with him. 

Think of that, Fred ! How would it seem to be all 
alone in a big city, with no mamma to cuddle you ; no 
two grandpa's houses to take you in ; not a penny but 
what you earned, and Donny to take care of ? Could 
you do it? Nine-year-old Patsey does it capitally; buys 
Pete's clothes, pays for his bed and supper, and puts 
pennies in the savings-bank. There 's a brave little man 
for you ! I wanted to see him but he is a newsboy, 
and sells late papers, because, though harder work, it 
pays better, and the coast is clear for those who do it. 

The savings-bank was a great table all full of slits, each 
one leading to a little place below and numbered outside, 
so each boy knew his own. Once a month the bank is 
opened, and the lads take out what they like, or have it 
invested in a big bank for them to have when they find 
homes out West, as many do, and make good farmers. 
One boy was putting in some pennies as we looked, and 
I asked how much he had saved this month. " Four- 
teen dollars, ma'am," says the thirteen-year-older, proudly 
slipping in the last cent. A prize of $3 is offered to the 
lad who saves the most in a month. 

The beds upstairs were in two immense rooms, ever so 
much larger than our town hall, one hundred in one, 
and one hundred and eighty in another, all narrow 
beds with a blue quilt, neat pillow, and clean sheet. 
They are built in long rows, one over another, and the 
upper boy has to climb up as on board ship. I 'd have 
liked to see one hundred and eighty all in their " by-lows ' 
at once, and I asked the man if they did n't train when 
all were in. " Lord, ma'am, they 're up at five, poor 

Family Changes. 283 

little chaps, and are so tired at night that they drop off 
right away. Now and then some boy kicks up a little 
row, but we have a watchman, and he soon settles 'em." 

He also told me how that very day a neat, smart 
young man came in, and said he was one of their boys 
who went West with a farmer only a little while ago ; and 
now he owned eighty acres of land, had a good house, 
and was doing well, and had come to New York to find 
his sister, and to take her away to live with him. Was n't 
that nice ? Lots of boys do as well. Instead of loafing 
round the streets and getting into mischief, they are 
taught to be tidy, industrious, and honest, and then sent 
away into the wholesome country to support themselves. 

It was funny to see 'em scrub in the bath-room, feet 
and faces, comb their hair, fold up their old clothes in 
the dear cubbies, which make them so happy because 
they feel that they own something. 

The man said every boy wanted one, even though he 
had neither shoes nor jacket to put in it ; but would lay 
away an old rag of a cap or a dirty tippet with an air 
of satisfaction fine to see. Some lads sat reading, and 
the man said they loved it so they 'd read all night, if 
allowed. At nine he gave the word, " Bed ! " and away 
went the lads, trooping up to sleep in shirts and trousers, 
as nightgowns are not provided. How would a boy I 
know like that, a boy who likes to have " trommin " 
on his nighties ? Of course, I don't mean dandy Don ! 
Oh, dear no ! 

After nine [if late in coming in] they are fined five 
cents ; after ten, ten cents ; and after eleven they can't 
come in at all. This makes them steady, keeps them 
out of harm, and gives them time for study. Some go 
to the theatre, and sleep anywhere ; some sleep at the 
Home, but go out for a better breakfast than they get 

284 Louisa May Alcott. 

there, as the swell ones are fond of goodies, and live 
well in their funny way. Coffee and cakes at Fulton 
Market is " the tip-top grub," and they often spend all 
their day's earnings in a play and a supper, and sleep in 
boxes or cellars after it. 

Lots of pussies were round the kitchen ; and one black 
one I called a bootblack, and a gray kit that yowled 
loud was a newsboy. That made some chaps laugh, and 
they nodded at me as I went out. Nice boys ! but I 
know some nicer ones. Write and tell me something 
about my poor Squabby. 

By-by, your 

To her Family. 

SATURDAY EVENING, Dec. 25, 1875, 

DEAR FAMILY, ... I had only time for a word this 
A. M., as the fourth letter was from Mrs. P. to say they could 
not go ; so I trotted off in the fog at ten to the boat, 
and there found Mr. and Mrs. G. and piles of goodies for 
the poor children. She is a dear little old lady in a 
close, Quakerish bonnet and plain suit, but wide-awake 
and full of energy. It was grand to see her tackle the 
big mayor and a still bigger commissioner, and tell them 
what ought to be done for the poor things on the Island, 
as they are to be routed ; for the city wants the land for 
some dodge or other. Both men fled soon, for the brave 
little woman was down on 'em in a way that would have 
made Marmee cry " Ankore ! " and clap her dress-gloves 
to rags. 

When the rotundities had retired, she fell upon a 
demure priest, and read him a sermon ; and then won 
the heart of a boyish reporter so entirely that he stuck to 
us all day, and helped serve out dolls and candy like a 
man and a brother. Long life to him ! 

Family Changes. 285 

Mr. G. and I discussed pauperism and crime like two 
old wiseacres ; and it was sweet to hear the gray-headed 
couple say " thee " and " thou," " Abby " and " James," to 
one another, he following with the bundles wherever the 
little poke-bonnet led the way. I 've had a pretty good 
variety of Christmases in my day, but never one like this 
before. First we drove in an old ramshackle hack to 
the chapel, whither a boy had raced before us, crying 
joyfully to all he met, "She's come! Miss G. she 's 
come ! ' And all faces beamed, as well they might, 
since for thirty years she has gone to make set after set 
of little forlornities happy on this day. 

The chapel was full. On one side, in front, girls in 
blue gowns and white pinafores ; on the other, small 
chaps in pinafores likewise ; and behind them, bigger 
boys in gray suits with cropped heads, and larger girls 
with ribbons in their hair and pink calico gowns. They 
sang alternately; the girls gave " Juanita " very well, the 
little chaps a pretty song about poor children asking a 
" little white angel " to leave the gates of heaven ajar, so 
they could peep in, if no more. Quite pathetic, coming 
from poor babies who had no home but this. 

The big boys spoke pieces, and I was amused when 
one bright lad in gray, with a red band on his arm, spoke 
the lines I gave G., "Merry Christmas." No one 
knew me, so I had the joke to myself; and I found 
afterward that I was taken for the mayoress, who was 
expected. Then we drove to the hospital, and there the 
heart-ache began, for me at least, so sad it was to see 
these poor babies, born of want and sin, suffering every 
sort of deformity, disease, and pain. Cripples half blind, 
scarred with scrofula, burns, and abuse, it was simply 
awful and indescribable ! 

As we went in, I with a great box of dolls and the 

286 Louisa May Alcott. 

young reporter with a bigger box of candy, a general 
cry of delight greeted us. Some children tried to run, 
half-blind ones stretched out their groping hands, little 
ones crawled, and big ones grinned, while several poor 
babies sat up in their bed, beckoning us to " come 

One poor mite, so eaten up with sores that its whole 
face was painted with some white salve, its head covered 
with an oilskin cap ; one eye gone, and the other half 
filmed over ; hands bandaged, and ears bleeding, could 
only moan and move its feet till I put a gay red dolly in 
one hand and a pink candy in the other ; then the dim 
eye brightened, the hoarse voice said feebly, "Tanky, 
lady ! " and I left it contentedly sucking the sweetie, and 
trying to see its dear new toy. It can't see another 
Christmas, and I like to think I helped make this one 
happy, even for a minute. 

It was pleasant to watch the young reporter trot round 
with the candy-box, and come up to me all interest to 
say, " One girl has n't got a doll, ma'am, and looks so 

After the hospital, we went to the idiot house ; and 
there I had a chance to see faces and figures that will 
haunt me a long time. A hundred or so of half-grown 
boys and girls ranged down a long hall, a table of toys 
in the middle, and an empty one for Mrs. G.'s gifts. A 
cheer broke out as the little lady hurried in waving her 
handkerchief and a handful of gay bead necklaces, and 
" Oh ! Ohs ! ' followed the appearance of the doll-lady 
and the candy man. 

A pile of gay pictures was a new idea, and Mrs. G. 
told me to hold up some bright ones and see if the poor 
innocents would understand and enjoy them. I held up 
one of two kittens lapping spilt milk, and the girls began 

Family Changes. 287 

to mew and say " Cat ! ah, pretty." Then a fine horse, 
and the boys bounced on their benches with pleasure ; 
while a ship in full sail produced a cheer of rapture from 
them all. 

Some were given out to the good ones, and the rest 
are to be pinned round the room ; so the pictures were a 
great success. All wanted dolls, even boys of nineteen ; 
for all were children in mind. But the girls had them, 
and young women of eighteen cuddled their babies and 
were happy. The boys chose from the toy-table, and it 
was pathetic to see great fellows pick out a squeaking dog 
without even the wit to pinch it when it was theirs. One 
dwarf of thirty-five chose a little Noah's ark, and brooded 
over it in silent bliss. 

Some with beards sucked their candy, and stared at a 
toy cow or box of blocks as if their cup was full. One 
French girl sang the Marseillaise in a feeble voice, and 
was so overcome by her new doll that she had an epilep- 
tic fit on the spot, which made two others go off like- 
wise ; and a slight pause took place while they were 
kindly removed to sleep it off. 

A little tot of four, who had n't sense to put candy in 
its mouth, was so fond of music that when the girls sang 
the poor vacant face woke up, and a pair of lovely soft 
hazel eyes stopped staring dully at nothing, and went 
wandering to and fro with light in them, as if to find the 
only sound that can reach its poor mind. 

I guess I gave away two hundred dolls, and a soap-box 
of candy was empty when we left. But rows of sticky 
faces beamed at us, and an array of gay toys wildly 
waved after us, as if we were angels who had showered 
goodies on the poor souls. 

Pauper women are nurses ; and Mrs. G. says the babies 
die like sheep, many being deserted so young nothing 

288 Louisa May Alcott. 

can be hoped or done for them. One of the teachers in 
the idiot home was a Miss C., who remembered Nan at 
Dr. Wilbur's. Very lady-like, and all devotion to me. 
But such a life ! Oh, me ! Who can lead it, and not 
go mad? 

At four, we left and came home, Mrs. G. giving a box 
of toys and sweeties on board the boat for the children 
of the men who run it. So leaving a stream of blessings 
and pleasures behind her, the dear old lady drove away, 
simply saying, " There now, I shall feel better for the 
next year ! " Well she may; bless her ! 

She made a speech to the chapel children after the 
Commissioner had prosed in the usual way, and she told 
'em that she should come as long as she could, and when 
she was gone her children would still keep it up in mem- 
ory of her ; so for thirty years more she hoped this, their 
one holiday, would be made happy for them. I could 
have hugged her on the spot, the motherly old dear ! 

Next Wednesday we go to the Tombs, and some day 
I am to visit the hospital with her, for I like this better 
than parties, etc. 

I got home at five, and then remembered that I 'd had 
no lunch ; so I took an apple till six, when I discovered 
that all had dined at one so the helpers could go early 
this evening. Thus my Christmas day was without din- 
ner or presents, for the first time since I can remember. 
Yet it has been a very memorable day, and I feel as if 
I 'd had a splendid feast seeing the poor babies wallow 
in turkey soup, and that every gift I put into their hands 
had come back to me in the dumb delight of their 
unchild-like faces trying to smile. 

After the pleasant visit in New York, Miss Alcott 
returned to Boston, where she went into society 

Family Changes. 289 

more than usual, often attending clubs, theatres, 
and receptions. She was more lionized than ever, 
and had a natural pleasure in the attention she 

The summer of 1876 she spent at Concord, nurs- 
ing her mother, who was very ill. She here wrote 
" Rose in Bloom," the sequel to " Eight Cousins," 
in three weeks. It was published in November. 

Louisa was anxious that her sister should have 
a home for her young family. Mrs. Pratt invested 
what she could of her husband's money in the 
purchase, and Louisa contributed the rest. This 
was the so-called Thoreau House on the main 
street in Concord, which became Mrs. Pratt's 
home, and finally that of her father. 

Louisa spent the summer of 1877 in Concord. 
Her mother's illness increased, and she \vas her- 
self very ill in August. Yet she wrote this sum- 
mer one of her brightest and sweetest stories, 
" Under the Lilacs." Her love of animals is spe- 
cially apparent in this book, and she records going 
to the circus to make studies for the performing 
dog Sanch. 

During the winter of 1877, Miss Alcott went to 
the Bellevue for some weeks, and having secured 
the necessary quiet, devoted herself to the writing 
of a novel for the famous No Name Series pub- 
lished by Roberts Brothers. This book had been 
in her mind for some time, as is seen by the jour- 
nal. As it was to appear anonymously, and was 
not intended for children, she was able to depart 
from her usual manner, and indulge the weird 
and lurid fancies which took possession of her in 


290 Louisa May Alcott. 

her dramatic days, and when writing sensational 
stories. She was much interested, and must have 
written it very rapidly, as it was published in April. 
She enjoyed the excitement of her incognito, and 
was much amused at the guesses of critics and 
Iriends, who attributed the book to others, and 
were sure Louisa Alcott did not write it, because 
its style was so unlike hers. 

It certainly is very unlike the books Miss Alcott 
had lately written. It has nothing of the home- 
like simplicity and charm of " Little Women," 
" Old-Fashioned Girl," and the other stories with 
which she was delighting the children, and, with 
" Moods," must always be named as exceptional 
when speaking of her works. Still, a closer study 
of her life and nature will reveal much of her own 
tastes and habits of thought in the book; and it is 
evident that she wrote con amore, and was fasci- 
nated by the familiars she evoked, however little 
charm they may seem to possess to others. She 
was fond of Hawthorne's books. The influence of 
his subtle and weird romances is undoubtedly per- 
ceptible in the book, and it is not strange that it 
was attributed to his son. She says it had been 
simmering in her brain ever since she read " Faust" 
the year before ; and she clearly wished to work 
according to Goethe's thought, that the Prince 
of Darkness was a gentleman, and must be repre- 
sented as belonging to the best society. 

The plot is powerful and original. A young poet, 
with more ambition than genius or self-knowledge, 
finds himself, at nineteen, friendless, penniless, and 
hopeless, and is on the point of committing suicide. 

Family Changes. 291 

He is saved by Helwyze, a middle-aged man, 
who has been severely crippled by a terrible fall, 
and his heart seared by the desertion of the woman 
he loved. A man of intellect, power, imagination, 
and wealth, but incapable of conscientious feeling 
or true love, he is a dangerous savior for the im- 
pulsive poet; but he takes him to his home, warms, 
feeds, and shelters him, and promises to bring out 
his book. The brilliant, passionate woman who 
gave up her lover when his health and beauty were 
gone, returned to him when youth had passed, 
and would gladly have devoted herself to sooth- 
ing his pain and enriching his life. Her feeling 
is painted with delicacy and tenderness. 

But Helwyze's heart knew nothing of the divine 
quality of forgiveness ; for his love there was no res- 
urrection ; and he only valued the power he could 
exercise over a brilliant woman, and the intellectual 
entertainment she could bring him. A sweet young 
girl, Olivia's protegee, completes the very limited 
dramatis personcs. 

The young poet, Felix Canaris, under the guid- 
ance of his new friend, wins fame, success, and the 
young girl's heart; but his wayward fancy turns 
rather to the magnificent Olivia. The demoniac 
Helwyze works upon this feeling, and claims of 
Olivia her fair young friend Gladys as a wife for 
Felix, who is forced to accept her at the hands of 
his master. She is entirely responsive to the love 
which she fancies she has won, and is grateful for 
her fortunate lot, and devotes herself to the com- 
fort and happiness of the poor invalid who de- 
lights in her beauty and grace. For a time Felix 

292 Louisa May Alcott. 

enjoys a society success, to which his charming 
wife, as well as his book, contribute. But at last 
this excitement flags. He writes another book, 
which he threatens to burn because he is dissatis- 
fied with it. Gladys entreats him to spare it, and 
Helwyze offers to read it to her. She is overcome 
and melted with emotion at the passion and pathos 
of the story ; and when Helwyze asks, " Shall I 
burn it ? " Felix answers, " No ! ' Again the book 
brings success and admiration, but the tender wife 
sees that it does not insure happiness, and that 
her husband is plunging into the excitement of 

The demon Helwyze has complete control over 
the poet, which he exercises with such subtle tyr- 
anny that the young man is driven to the dreadful 
thought of murder to escape from him ; but he is 
saved from the deed by the gentle influence of his 
wife, who has won his heart at last, unconscious 
that it had not always been hers. 

Helwyze finds his own punishment. One being 
resists his power, Gladys breathes his poisoned 
atmosphere unharmed. He sends for Olivia as his 
ally to separate the wife from her husband's love. 
A passion of curiosity possesses him to read her 
very heart; and at last he resorts to a strange 
means to accomplish his purpose. He gives her 
an exciting drug without her knowledge, and un- 
der its influence she speaks and acts with a rare 
genius which calls forth the admiration of all the 
group. Left alone with her, Helwyze exercises his 
magnetic power to draw forth the secrets of her 
heart; but he reads there only a pure and true 

Family Changes. 293 

love for her husband, and fear of the unhallowed 
passion which he is cherishing. The secret of 
his power over the husband is at last revealed. 
Canaris has published as his own the work of 
Helwyze, and all the fame and glory he has re- 
ceived has been won by deceit, and is a miserable 

The tragic result is inevitable. Gladys dies under 
the pressure of a burden too heavy for her, - - the 
knowledge of deceit in him she had loved and 
trusted ; while the stricken Helwyze is paralyzed, 
and lives henceforth only a death in life. 

With all the elements of power and beauty in 
this singular book, it fails to charm and win the 
heart of the reader. The circumstances are in a 
romantic setting, but still they are prosaic ; and 
tragedy is only endurable when taken up into the 
region of the ideal, where the thought of the uni- 
versal rounds out all traits of the individual. In 
Goethe's Faust, Margaret is the sweetest and sim- 
plest of maidens ; but in her is the life of all 
wronged and suffering womanhood. 

The realism which is delightful in the pictures 
of little women and merry boys is painful when 
connected with passions so morbid and lives so far 
removed from joy and sanity. As in her early 
dramas and sensational stories, we do not find 
Louisa Alcott's own broad, generous, healthy life, 
or that which lay around her, in this book, but the 
reminiscences of her reading, which she had striven 
to make her own by invention and fancy. 

This note refers to "A Modern Mephistoph- 
eles " : 

294 Louisa May Alcott. 


DEAR MR. NILES, I had to keep the proof longer 
than I meant because a funeral came in the way. 

The book as last sent is lovely, and much bigger than 
I expected. 

Poor " Marmee," ill in bed, hugged it, and said, " It 
is perfect ! only I do wish your name could be on it." 
She is very proud of it ; and tender-hearted Anna weeps 
and broods over it, calling Gladys the best and sweetest 
character I ever did. So much for home opinion ; now 
let 's see what the public will say. 

May clamors for it ; but I don't want to send this till 
she has had one or two of the others. Have you sent 
her " Is That All?" If not, please do; then it won't 
look suspicious to send only " M. M." 

I am so glad the job is done, and hope it won't dis- 
grace the series. Is not another to come before this? 
I hope so ; for many people suspect what is up, and I 
could tell my fibs about No. 6 better if it was not mine. 

Thanks for the trouble you have taken to keep the 
secret. Now the fun will begin. 

Yours truly, L. M. A. 

P. S. Bean's expressman grins when he hands in the 
daily parcel. He is a Concord man. 

By Louisa's help the younger sister again went 
abroad in 1876; and her bright affectionate letters 
cheered the little household, much saddened by 
the mother's illness. 


January, 1876. Helped Mrs. Croly receive two 
hundred gentlemen. 

A letter from Baron Tauchnitz asking leave to put my 

Family Changes. 295 

book in his foreign library, and sending 600 marks to 
pay for it. Said, " Yes, thank you, Baron." 

Went to Philadelphia to see Cousin J. May installed 
in Dr. Furness's pulpit. Dull place is Philadelphia. 
Heard Beecher preach ; did not like him. . . . 

Went home on the 2ist, finding I could not work 
here. Soon tire of being a fine lady. 

February and March. Took a room in B., and fell 
to work on short tales for F. T. N. wanted a centennial 
story ; but my frivolous New York life left me no ideas. 
Went to Centennial Ball at Music Hall, and got an idea. 

Wrote a tale of " '76," which with others will make a 
catchpenny book. Mother poorly, so I go home to nurse 

April, May, and June. Mother better. Nan and 
boys go to P. farm. May and I clean the old house. 
It seems as if the dust of two centuries haunted the 
ancient mansion, and came out spring and fall in a ghostly 
way for us to clear up. 

Great freshets and trouble. 

Exposition in Philadelphia ; don't care to go. America 
ought to pay her debts before she gives parties. " Silver 
Pitchers," etc., comes out, and goes well. Poor stuff; 
but the mill must keep on grinding even chaff. 

June. Lovely month ! Keep hotel and wait on 

Try to get up steam for a new serial, as Mrs. Dodge 
wants one, and Scribner offers $3,000 for it. Roberts 
Brothers want a novel ; and the various newspapers and 
magazines clamor for tales. My brain is squeezed dry, 
and I can only wait for help. 

July, August. Get an idea and start " Rose in Bloom," 
though I hate sequels. 

September. On the 9th my dear girl sails in the 

296 Louisa May Alcott. 

" China "for a year in London or Paris. God be with 
her ! She has done her distasteful duty faithfully, and 
deserved a reward. She cannot find the help she needs 
here, and is happy and busy in her own world over there. 

[She never came home. L. M. A.] 
Finish " Rose." 

November. " Rose " comes out ; sells well. 

. . . Forty- four years old. My new task gets on 
slowly ; but I keep at it, and can be a prop, if not an 
angel, in the house, as Nan is. 

December. Miss P. sends us a pretty oil sketch of 
May, - - so like the dear soul in her violet wrapper, with 
yellow curls piled up, and the long hand at work. Mother 
delights in it. 

She (M.) is doing finely, and says, "I am getting on, 
and I feel as if it was not all a mistake ; for I have some 
talent, and will prove it." Modesty is a sign of genius, 
and I think our girl has both. The money I invest in her 
pays the sort of interest I like. I am proud to have her 
show what she can do, and have her depend upon no 
one but me. Success to little Raphael ! My dull winter 
is much cheered by her happiness and success. 

January, February, 1877. The year begins well. 
Nan keeps house ; boys fine, tall lads, good and gay ; 
Father busy with his new book ; Mother cosey with her 
sewing, letters, Johnson, and success of her " girls." 

Went for some weeks to the Bellevue, and wrote "A 
Modern Mephistopheles >; for the No Name Series. It 
has been simmering ever since I read Faust last year. 
Enjoyed doing it, being tired of providing moral pap for 
the young. Long to write a novel, but cannot get time 

Family Changes. 297 

May's letters our delight. She is so in earnest she 
will not stop for pleasure, rest, or society, but works away 
like a Trojan. Her work admired by masters and mates 
for its vigor and character. 

March. Begin to think of buying the Thoreau place 
for Nan. The $4,000 received from the Vt. and Eastern 
R. Rs. must be invested, and she wants a home of her 
own, now the lads are growing up. 

Mother can be with her in the winter for a change, and 
leave me free to write in B. Concord has no inspiration 
for me. 

April. May, at the request of her teacher, M. Muller, 
sends a study of still life to the Salon. The little picture 
is accepted, well hung, and praised by the judges. No 
friend at court, and the modest work stood on its own 
merits. She is very proud to see her six months' hard 
work bear fruit. A happy girl, and all say she deserves 
the honor. 

" M. M." appears and causes much guessing. It is 
praised and criticised, and I enjoy the fun, especially 
when friends say, " I know you did n't write it, for you 
can't hide your peculiar style." 

Help to buy the house for Nan, $4,500. So she has 
her wish, and is happy. When shall I have mine? 
Ought -to be contented with knowing I help both sisters 
by my brains. But I 'm selfish, and want to go away and 
rest in Europe. Never shall. 

May> June. Quiet days keeping house and attending 
to Marmee, who grows more and more feeble. Helped 
Nan get ready for her new home. 

Felt very well, and began to hope I had outlived the 
neuralgic worries and nervous woes born of the hospital 
fever and the hard years following. 

May living alone in Paris, while her mates go jaunting, 

298 Louisa May Alcott. 

a solitary life ; but she is so busy she is happy and 
safe. A good angel watches over her. Take pleasant 
drives early in the A. M. with Marmee. She takes her 
comfort in a basket wagon, and we drive to the woods, 
picking flowers and stopping where we like. It keeps 
her young, and rests her weary nerves. 

July. Got too tired, and was laid up for some weeks. 
A curious time, lying quite happily at rest, wondering 
what was to come next. 

August. As soon as able began "Under the Lilacs," 
but could not do much. 

Mrs. Alcott grew rapidly worse, and her devoted 
daughter recognized that the final parting was near. 
As Louisa watched by the bedside she wrote " My 
Girls," and finished " Under the Lilacs." 

The journal tells the story of the last days of 
watching, and of the peaceful close of the mother's 
self-sacrificing yet blessed life. Louisa was very 
brave in the presence of death. She had no dark 
thoughts connected with it; and in her mother's 
case, after her long, hard life, she recognized how 
" growing age longed for its peaceful sleep." 

The tie between this mother and daughter was 
exceptionally strong and tender. The mother saw 
all her own fine powers reproduced and developed 
in her daughter; and if she also recognized the 
passionate energy which had been the strength and 
the bane of her own life, it gave her only a more 
constant watchfulness to save her child from the 
struggles and regrets from which she had suffered 

Family Changes. 299 


September, 1877. On the 7th Marmee had a very ill 
turn, and the doctor told me it was the beginning of the 
end. [Water on the chest.] She was so ill we sent for 
Father from Walcott ; and I forgot myself in taking care 
of poor Marmee, who suffered much and longed to go. 

As 1 watched with her I wrote " My Girls," to go with 
other tales in a new " Scrap Bag," and finished " Under 
the Lilacs." I foresaw a busy or a sick winter, and wanted 
to finish while I could, so keeping my promise and earn- 
ing my $3,000. 

Brain very lively and pen flew. It always takes an 
exigency to spur me up and wring out a book. Never 
have time to go slowly and do my best. 

October. Fearing I might give out, got a nurse and 
rested a little, so that when the last hard days come I 
might not fail Marmee, who says, " Stay by, Louy, and 
help me if I suffer too much." I promised, and watched 
her sit panting life away day after day. We thought she 
would not outlive her seventy-seventh birthday, but, 
thanks to Dr. W. and homoeopathy, she got relief, and we 
had a sad little celebration, well knowing it would be the 
last. Aunt B. and L. W. came up, and with fruit, flowers, 
smiling faces, and full hearts, we sat round the brave 
soul who faced death so calmly and was ready to go. 

I overdid and was very ill, in danger of my life for a 
week, and feared to go before Marmee. But pulled 
through, and got up slowly to help her die. A strange 

November. Still feeble, and Mother failing fast. On 
the 1 4th we were both moved to Anna's at Mother's 
earnest wish. 

A week in the new home, and then she ceased to care 

300 Louisa May Alcott. 

for anything. Kept her bed for three days, lying down 
after weeks in a chair, and on the 25th, at dusk, that 
rainy Sunday, fell quietly asleep in my arms. 

She was very happy all day, thinking herself a girl 
again, with parents and sisters round her. Said her Sun- 
day hymn to me, whom she called " Mother," and smiled 
at us, saying, "A smile is as good as a prayer." Looked 
often at the little picture of May, and waved her hand to 
it, " Good-by, little May, good- by ! " 

Her last words to Father were, " You are laying a very 
soft pillow for me to go to sleep on." 

We feared great suffering, but she was spared that, and 
slipped peacefully away. I was so glad when the last 
weary breath was drawn, and silence came, with its rest 
and peace. 

On the 27th it was necessary to bury her, and we took 
her quietly away to Sleepy Hollow. A hard day, but the 
last duty we could do for her ; and there we left her at 
sunset beside dear Lizzie's dust, alone so long. 

On the 28th a memorial service, and all the friends at 
Anna's, Dr. Bartol and Mr. Foote of Stone Chapel. A 
simple, cheerful service, as she would have liked it. 

Quiet days afterward resting in her rest. 

My duty is done, and now I shall be glad to follow 

December. Many kind letters from all who best knew 
and loved the noble woman. 

I never wish her back, but a great warmth seems gone 
out of life, and there is no motive to go on now. 

My only comfort is that I could make her last years 
comfortable, and lift off the burden she had carried so 
bravely all these years. She was so loyal, tender, and 
true ; life was hard for her, and no one understood all she 
had to bear but we, her children. I think I shall soon 

Family Changes. 301 

follow her, and am quite ready to go now she no longer 
needs me. 

January, 1878. An idle month at Nan's, for I can 
only suffer. 

Father goes about, being restless with his anchor gone. 
Dear Nan is house-mother now, so patient, so thought- 
ful and tender ; I need nothing but that cherishing which 
only mothers can give. 

May busy in London. Very sad about Marmee ; but 
it was best not to send for her, and Marmee forbade it, 
and she has some very tender friends near her. 

February. ... Wrote some lines on Marmee. 

To Mrs. Dodge. 

CONCORD, June 3 [1877]. 

DEAR MRS. DODGE, The tale 1 goes slowly owing to 
interruptions, for summer is a busy time, and I get few 
quiet days. Twelve chapters are done, but are short 
ones, and so will make about six or seven numbers in 
"St. Nicholas." 

I will leave them divided in this way that you may put 
in as many as you please each month ; for trying to suit 
the magazine hurts the story in its book form, though 
this way does no harm to the monthly parts, I think. 

I will send you the first few chapters during the week 
for Mrs. Foote, and with them the schedule you sug- 
gest, so that my infants may not be drawn with whiskers, 
and my big boys and girls in pinafores, as in " Eight 

I hope the new baby won't be set aside too soon for 
my illustrations ; but I do feel a natural wish to have one 
story prettily adorned with good pictures, as hitherto ar- 
tists have much afflicted me. 

1 Under the Lilacs. 

3O2 Louisa May Alcott. 

I am daily waiting with anxiety for an illumination of 
some sort, as my plot is very vague so far ; and though I 
don't approve of " sensations " in children's books, one 
must have a certain thread on which to string the small 
events which make up the true sort of child-life. 

I intend to go and simmer an afternoon at Van Am- 
burg's great show, that I may get hints for the further 
embellishment of Ben and liis dog. I have also put in 
a poem by F. B. S.'s small son, 1 and that hit will give 
Mrs. Foote a good scene with the six-year-old poet re- 
citing his verses under the lilacs. 

I shall expect the small tots to be unusually good, 
since the artist has a live model to study from. Please 
present my congratulations to the happy mamma and 

Mr. Foote, Jr. 

Yours warmly, 

L. M. A. 

AUGUST 21, 1879. 

DEAR MRS. DODGE, I have not been able to do 
anything on the serial. . . . But after a week at the 
seaside, to get braced up for work, I intend to begin. 
The Revolutionary tale does not seem to possess me. I 
have casually asked many of my young folks, when they 
demand a new story, which they would like, one of that 
sort or the old " Eight Cousin " style, and they all say 
the latter. It would be much the easier to do, as I have 
a beginning and a plan all ready, a village, and the 
affairs of a party of children. We have many little ro- 
mances going on among the Concord boys and girls, 
and all sorts of queer things, which will work into ''Jack 
and Jill ' nicely. Mrs. Croly has been anxious for a 
story, and I am trying to do a short one, as I told her 

1 Under the Lilacs, page 78. 

Family Changes. 303 

you had the refusal of my next serial. I hope you will 
not be very much disappointed about the old-time tale. 
It would take study to do it well, and leisure is just what 
I have not got, and I shall never have, I fear, when writ- 
ing is to be done. I will send you a few chapters of 
"Jack and Jill" when in order, if you like, and you can 
decide if they will suit. I shall try to have it unlike the 
others if possible, but the dears will cling to the " Little 
Women " style. 

I have had a very busy summer, but have been pretty 
well, and able to do my part in entertaining the four 
hundred philosophers. 

Yours truly, 

L. M. A. 

SEPTEMBER 17 [1879], 

DEAR MRS. DODGE, ... Don't let me prose. If I 
seem to be declining and falling into it, pull me up, and 
I '11 try to prance as of old. Years tame down one's spirit 
and fancy, though they only deepen one's love for the 
little people, and strengthen the desire to serve them 
wisely as well as cheerfully. Fathers and mothers tell 
me they use my books as helps for themselves ; so now 
and then I like to slip in a page for them, fresh from the 
experience of some other parent, for education seems to 
me to be the problem in our times. 

Jack and Jill are right out of our own little circle, 
and the boys and girls are in a twitter to know what is 
going in ; so it will be a " truly story " in the main. 

Such a long note for a busy woman to read ! but your 
cheery word was my best " starter ; ' and I 'm, more than 


Yours truly, 

L. M. A. 

304 Louisa May Alcott. 

Born at Concord, July, 1840. Died in Paris, December, 1879. 

This younger sister became so dear to Louisa, 
and through the legacy which she left to her of 
an infant child, exercised so great an influence 
over the last ten years of her life, that it will not 
be uninteresting to trace out the course of her life 
and the development of her character. May was 
born before the experiments at Fruitlands, and her 
childhood passed during the period when the for- 
tunes of the family were at the lowest ebb ; but 
she was too young to feel in all their fulness the 
cares which weighed upon the older sisters. Her 
oldest sister the affectionate, practical Anna 
almost adopted May as her own baby, and gave her 
a great deal of the attention and care which the 
mother had not time for amid her numerous avo- 
cations. The child clung to Anna with trust and 
affection ; but with her quick fancy and lively 
spirit, she admired the brilliant qualities of Louisa. 
Hasty in temperament, quick and impulsive in ac- 
tion, she quarrelled with Louisa while she adored 
her, and was impatient with her rebukes, which yet 
had great influence over her. She had a more 
facile nature than the other sisters, and a natural, 
girlish love of attention, and a romantic fondness 
for beauty in person and style in living. Graceful 
in figure and manners, with a fine complexion, 
blue eyes, and a profusion of light wavy hair, she 
was attractive in appearance ; and a childish frank- 
ness, and acceptance of sympathy or criticism, 

Family Changes. 305 

disarmed those who were disposed to find fault 
with her. 

May is very truly described in " Little Women," 
and her character is painted with a discerning but 
loving hand : " A regular snow maiden, with blue 
eyes, and yellow hair curling on her shoulders, pale 
and slender, and always carrying herself like a 
young lady mindful of her manners." Many little 
touches of description show the consciousness of 
appearance and love of admiration which she inno- 
cently betrayed, and illustrate the relation of the 
sisters : " ' Don't stop to quirk your little finger 
and prink over your plate, Amy/ cried Jo." Her 
mother says of this daughter in her diary: "She 
does all things well ; her capabilities are much in 
her eyes and fingers. When a child, I observed 
with what ease and grace she did little things." 

According to Louisa, " If anybody had asked 
Amy what the greatest trial of her life was, she 
would have answered at once, ' My nose/ No one 
minded it but herself, and it was doing its best to 
grow ; but Amy felt deeply the want of a Grecian 
nose, and drew whole sheets of handsome ones to 
console herself." " Little Raphael," as the sisters 
called her, very early developed a love and talent 
for drawing which became the delight of her life. 
She covered her books with sketches, but managed 
to escape reprimand by being a model of deport- 
ment. Always having in her mind an ideal of 
elegant life, the many little trials of their times of 
poverty were of course severe mortifications to her ; 
and the necessity of wearing dresses which came 

to her from others, and which were ugly in them- 


306 Louisa May Alcott. 

selves or out of harmony with her own appear- 
ance, caused her much affliction. She was always 
generous and easily reconciled after a quarrel, and 
was a favorite with her companions, and the hero- 
ine of those innocent little love episodes which, 
as Tennyson says, - 

" Are but embassies of love 
To tamper with the feelings, ere he found 
Empire for life." 1 

While May was too young to take the part in 
the support of the family which fell to Anna and 
Louisa, she was yet a blessing and comfort by her 
kind, bright nature. After the death of Elizabeth 
in 1858, her mother speaks of " turning to the little 
May for comfort," and her father's letters show how 
dear she was to him, although she never entered 
into his intellectual life. 

May shared in the blessing of Louisa's first suc- 
cess, for she went to the School of Design in 1859 
for the lessons in her art, for which she longed so 
eagerly. In 1860 an old friend sent her thirty 
dollars for lessons in drawing, and she had the 
best instruction she could then receive in Boston. 

In 1863, Louisa procured for her the great ad- 
vantage of study with Dr. Rimmer, who was then 
giving his precious lessons in art anatomy in Bos- 
ton. Under his instructions, May gave some at- 
tention to modelling, and completed an ideal bust. 
Although she did not pursue this branch of art, it 
was undoubtedly of great service in giving her 
more thorough knowledge of the head, and a 

1 Gardener's Daughter. 

Family Changes. 307 

bolder and firmer style of drawing than she would 
have gained in any other way. 

As will be seen from Louisa's journal, May was 
frequently with her in Boston, engaged in studying 
or teaching. By the kindness of a friend, she went 
to Europe in 1870, when Louisa accompanied her. 
Louisa sent her to Europe for a year of study in 
1873, and again in 1877. In London and Paris she 
had good opportunities for study, and improved 
rapidly in her art. She made some admirable 
copies from Turner which attracted the attention 
of Ruskin ; and a picture from still life was accepted 
at the Paris Salon, which event gave great happi- 
ness to the family circle and friends at home. 

May was very generous in giving to others help 
in the art she loved. While at home, in the inter- 
vals of her studies in Europe, she tried to form an 
art centre in Concord, and freely gave her time, 
her instruction, and the use of her studio to young 
artists. She wrote a little book to aid them in 
prosecuting their studies abroad, called " Studying 
Art Abroad, and How to do it Cheaply." 

Like the rest of the family, May composed with 
great ease, and sometimes wrote little stories. Her 
letters are very sprightly and agreeable. 

While residing in London, May had become 
acquainted with a young Swiss gentleman, whose 
refined and artistic tastes were closely in unison 
with her own. During the sad days of bereave- 
ment caused by her mother's death he was a kind 
and sympathetic friend, soothing her grief and 
cheering her solitude by his music. Thus, fre- 
quently together, their friendship became love, and 

308 Louisa May Alcott. 

they were betrothed. The course of this true love, 
which for a time ran swiftly and smoothly, is most 
exquisitely depicted in May's letters to her family. 
The charming pictures of herself and her young 
lover are so like Amy and her Laurie in his hap- 
piest moods, that we almost feel as if Miss Alcott 
had been prophetic in her treatment of these char- 
acters in " Little Women." 

I wish I could give her own natural, frank ac- 
count of this event. May had the secret of per- 
petual youth, at least in spirit; and in reading her 
letters, one has no consciousness that more than 
thirty years had passed over her head, for they had 
taken no drop of freshness from her heart. 

The union of this happy pair was not a surprise 
to the friends at home, who had read May's heart, 
revealed in her frank, innocent letters, more clearly 
than she had supposed. When the claims of busi- 
ness called Mr. Nieriker from London, the hearts 
of the young couple quailed before the idea of 
separation, and they decided to be married at 
once, and go together. The simple ceremony was 
performed in London, March 22, 1878; and May 
started on her journey, no longer alone, but with a 
loving friend by her side. 

May's letters are full of the most artless joy in 
her new life. The old days of struggle and penury 
are gone ; the heart-loneliness is no more ; the 
world is beautiful, and everybody loving and kind. 
Life in the modest French home is an idyllic 
dream, and she writes to her sisters of every detail 
of her household. The return of her husband at 
sunset is a feast, and the evening is delightful with 

Family Changes. 309 

poetry and music. Her blue dress, her crimson 
furniture, satisfy her artistic sense. She does not 
neglect her art, but paints with fresh inspiration, 
and waits for his criticism and praise. She says, 
" He is very ambitious for my artistic success, and 
is my most severe critic." In the morning she 
finds her easel set out for her, a fire burning ready 
for her comfort, and her husband in the big arm- 
chair waiting to read to her, or to take his violin 
and pose for his picture in gray velvet paletot and 
red slippers. 1 

For the time conjugal love is all sufficient, and 
May wonders at herself that the happiness of the 
moment can so drown every remembrance of sor- 
row. Yet a pathetic note is occasionally heard, as 
she mourns for the mother who is gone, or yearns 
for the sister who has been such a strength to her 
through life. The picturesqueness and ease of 
French life make America look stupid and forlorn, 
and she has no wish to go home, but only to have 
her dear ones share in her happiness. Her work 
in art was successful ; and the money she received 
for it was not unacceptable, although her husband's 
income sufficed for their modest wants. She was 
justified in her grateful feeling that she was singu- 
larly blessed. Her husband's family were German- 
Swiss of high standing, artistic temperament, and 
warm affections. His mother and sister came to 
visit them, and took May to their hearts with 
cordial love. 

Among the pictures painted by May at this time 
the most remarkable is the portrait of a negro girl, 

1 This interesting picture is in the possession of her sister. 

3io Louisa May Alcott. 

which is a very faithful study from life, and gives 
the color and characteristic traits of a beautiful 
negro without exaggeration. The expression of 
the eyes is tender and pathetic, well-suited to the 
fate of a slave girl. Such earnest study would have 
borne richer fruit if longer life had been hers. 

May's own nature seems to have blossomed out 
like a flower in this sunny climate. In her youth 
at home she was impulsive, affectionate, and gener- 
ous, but quick in temper and sometimes exacting; 
but the whole impression she made upon her hus- 
band and his family was of grace and sweetness, 
and she herself declares that her sisters at home 
would not recognize her, she has " become so sweet 
in this atmosphere of happiness." 

We would gladly linger over these records of a 
paradisiacal home where Adam and Eve renewed 
their innocent loves and happy labors. When 
musing over the sorrows of humanity it refreshes 
us to know that such joy is possible, and needs 
only love and simple hearts to make it real. 

May's note of happiness is touchingly echoed 
from the heart of her bereaved father, wdio recalls 
the days of his own courtship. He cherished every 
tender word from her; and the respectful and lov- 
ing words of his new son, to whom he responds 
affectionately, were like balm to his stricken heart. 

May's joy was heightened by the expectation of 
motherhood. Her health was excellent, and she 
had the loving care of her new mother and sister. 
The anxious family at home received the news of 
the birth of a daughter with heartfelt delight. It 
was a great disappointment to Louisa that she 

Family Changes. 311 

could not be with her sister at this time ; but her 
health was not equal to the voyage, and she felt 
that May had most loving and sufficient care. An 
American friend in Paris kindly wrote to Louisa 
full details of the little niece and of the mother's 
condition. " It is difficult," she says, " to say which 
of that happy household is the proudest over that 
squirming bit of humanity." 

For about two weeks all seemed well ; but alarm- 
ing symptoms began to appear, and the mother's 
strength failed rapidly. The brain was the seat 
of disease ; and she was generally unconscious, al- 
though she had intervals of apparent improvement, 
when she recognized her friends. She passed away 
peacefully December 29, 1879. 

An American clergyman in Paris took charge of 
the funeral service, which according to May's ex- 
pressed desire was very simple, and she was laid 
in the tranquil cemetery of Montrouge outside of 
the fortifications. 

Foreseeing the possibility of a fatal termination 
to her illness, May had made every preparation for 
the event, and obtained a promise from her sister- 
in-law that she would carry the baby to Louisa to 
receive the devoted care that she knew would be 
given it. The child became a source of great 
comfort to Miss Alcott as will be seen from the 
journals. After her death Mr. Nieriker visited his 
little girl in America, and in June, 1889, her aunt 
took her to his home in Zurich, Switzerland. 

Before the sad letters describing May's illness 
could reach America, came the cable message of 
her death. It was sent to Mr. Emerson, the never 

312 Louisa May Alcott. 

failing friend of the family, who bore it to Louisa, 
her father being temporarily absent. His thought- 
fulness softened the blow as much as human ten- 
derness could, but still it fell with crushing weight 
upon them all. 

The father and sister could not sleep, and in the 
watches of the night he wrote that touching ode, 
the cry of paternal love and grief entitled " Love's 

To Mrs. Bond. 

CONCORD, Jan. i, 1880. 

DEAR AUNTIE, It is hard to add one more sorrow 
to your already full heart, particularly one of this sort, 
but I did not want you to hear it from any one but us. 
Dear May is dead. Gone to begin the new year with 
Mother, in a world where I hope there is no grief like this. 
Gone just when she seemed safest and happiest, after 
nearly two years of such sweet satisfaction and love that 
she wrote us, " If I die when baby comes, remember I 
have been so unspeakably happy for a year that I ought 
to be content . . . ' 

And it is all over. The good mother and sister have 
done everything in the most devoted way. We can 
never repay them. My May gave me her little Lulu, and 
in the spring I hope to get my sweet legacy. Meantime 
the dear grandma takes her to a home full of loving 
friends and she is safe. I will write more when we know, 
but the cruel sea divides us and we must wait. 

Bless you dear Auntie for all your love for May ; she 
never forgot it, nor do we. 

Yours ever, 


Family Changes. 313 


DEAR AUNTIE, I have little further news to tell, but 
it seems to comfort me to answer the shower of tender 
sympathetic letters that each mail brings us. ... 

So we must wait to learn how the end came at last, 
where the dear dust is to lie, and how soon the desolate 
little home is to be broken up. It only remains for 
May's baby to be taken away to fill our cup to overflowing. 
But perhaps it would be best so, for even in Heaven 
with Mother, I know May will yearn for the darling so 
ardently desired, so tenderly welcomed, bought at such 
a price. 

In all the troubles of my life I never had one so hard 
to bear, for the sudden fall from such high happiness to 
such a depth of sorrow finds me unprepared to accept or 
bear it as I ought. 

Sometime I shall know why such things are ; till then I 
must try to trust and wait and hope as you do. . . . Sor- 
row has its lonely side, and sympathy is so sweet it takes 
half its bitterness away. 

Yours ever, L. 

After May's marriage and death Louisa remained 
awhile in Concord, trying to forget her grief in care 
for others. She went to the prison in Concord, 
and told a story to the prisoners which touched 
their hearts, and was long remembered by some of 

She wrote some short stories for " St. Nicholas," 
among them "Jimmy's Cruise in the Pinafore," 
called out by the acting of the popular opera of 
that name by a juvenile troupe. 

She spent some weeks at Willow Cottage, Mag- 
nolia, which she has described in her popular story 

314 Louisa May Alcott. 

of " Jack and Jill." The scene of the story is 
mostly laid in Concord, or " Harmony ' as she 
calls it, and she has introduced many familiar 
scenes and persons into the book. 

This summer, too, the long-dreamed of School 
of Philosophy was established. The opening of the 
School was a great event to Mr. Alcott, as it was 
the realization of the dream of years. Louisa en- 
joyed his gratification, and took pains to help him 
to reap full satisfaction from it. She carried flowers 
to grace the opening meeting, and was friendly to 
his guests. She occasionally attended lectures 
given by her friends, Dr. Bartol, Mrs. Howe, and 
others, - - and she could not fail to enjoy meeting 
many of the bright people who congregated there; 
but she did not care for the speculative philosophy. 
Her keen sense of humor led her to see all that 
was incongruous or funny or simply novel in the 
bearing of the philosophers. She felt that her 
father had too much of the trying details, and per- 
haps did not appreciate how much joy of recogni- 
tion it brought him. She had not much faith in 
the practical success of the experiment. Philoso- 
phy was much associated in her mind with early 
poverty and suffering, and she did not feel its 
charms. She was usually at the seashore at this 
season, as she suffered from the heat at Concord. 
Frequent allusions to the school appear in her 
journal. The following anecdote is given by a 

" It was at Concord on Emerson day. After a 
morning with Bartol and Alcott and Mrs. Howe, I 
lunched with the Alcotts', who had for guest the 

Family Changes. 315 

venerable Dr. McCosh. Naturally the conversa- 
tion turned on the events of the morning. ' I was 
thinking,' said the Doctor, ' as I looked among 
your audience, that there were no young men ; 
and that with none but old men your school would 
soon die with them. By the way, madam,' he con- 
tinued, addressing Miss Alcott, 'will you tell me 
what is your definition of a philosopher?' 

" The reply came instantly, ' My definition is of 
a man up in a balloon, with his family and friends 
holding the ropes which confine him to earth and 
trying to haul him down.' 

" The laugh which followed this reply was 
heartily joined in by the philosopher himself." 


March, 1878. A happy event, May's marriage to 
Ernest Nieriker, the " tender friend " who has consoled 
her for Marmee's loss, as John consoled Nan for Beth's. 
He is a Swiss, handsome, cultivated, and good ; an ex- 
cellent family living in Baden, and E. has a good business. 
May is old enough to choose for herself, and seems so 
happy in the new relation that we have nothing to say 
against it. 

They were privately married on the 22d, and went to 
Havre for the honeymoon, as E. had business in France ; 
so they hurried the wedding. Send her $1,000 as a gift, 
and all good wishes for the new life. 

April. Happy letters from May, who is enjoying life 
as one can but once. E. writes finely to Father, and is 
a son to welcome I am sure. May sketches and E. at- 
tends to his business by day, and both revel in music in 
the evening, as E. is a fine violin pViyer. 

316 Louisa May Alcott. 

How different our lives are just now ! I so lonely, 
sad, and sick ; she so happy, well, and blest. She al- 
ways had the cream of things, and deserved it. My 
time is yet to come somewhere else, when I am ready 
for it. 

Anna clears out the old house ; for we shall never go 
back to it ; it ceased to be " home " when Marmee left it. 

I dawdle about, and wait to see if I am to live or die. 
If I live, it is for some new work. I wonder what ? 

May. Begin to drive a little, and enjoy the spring. 
Nature is always good to me. 

May settles in her own house at Meudon, a pretty 
apartment, with balcony, garden, etc. ... I plan and 
hope to go to them, if I am ever well enough, and find 
new inspiration in a new life. May and E. urge it, and I 
long to go, but cannot risk the voyage yet. I doubt if I 
ever find time to lead my own life, or health to try it. 

June and July. Improving fast, in spite of dark 
predictions and forebodings. The Lord has more work 
for me, so I am spared. 

Tried to write a memoir of Marmee ; but it is too 
soon, and I am not well enough. 

May has had the new mother and brother-in-law with 
her, and finds them most interesting and lovable. They 
seem very proud of her, and happy in her happiness. 
Bright times for our youngest ! May they last ! 

[They did. L. M. A.] 

Got nicely ready to go to May in September ; but at 
the last moment gave it up, fearing to undo all the good 
this weary year of ease has done for me, and be a bur- 
den on her. A great disappointment ; but I Ve learned 
to wait. I long to see her happy in her own home. 

Family Changes. 317 

Nan breaks her leg ; so it is well I stayed, as there 
was no one to take her place but me. Always a little 
chore to be done. 

October, November. Nan improved. Rode, nursed, 
kept house, and tried to be contented, but was not. 
Make no plans for myself now; do what I can, and 
should be glad not to have to sit idle any longer. 

On the 8th, Marmee's birthday, Father and I went to 
Sleepy Hollow with red leaves and flowers for her. A 
cold, dull day, and I was glad there was no winter for 
her any more. 

November 2^th. A year since our beloved Marmee 
died. A very eventful year. May marries, I live instead 
of dying, Father comes to honor in his old age, and Nan 
makes her home our refuge when we need one. 

December. A busy time. Nan gets about again. I 
am so well I wonder at myself, and ask no more. 

Write a tale for the " Independent," and begin on an 
art novel, with May's romance for its thread. Went to 
B. for some weeks, and looked about to see what I 
could venture to do. . . . 

So ends 1878, a great contrast to last December. 
Then I thought I was done with life ; now I can enjoy 
a good deal, and wait to see what I am spared to do. 
Thank God for both the sorrow and the joy. 

January, 1879. At the Bellevue in my little room 

Got two books well started, but had too many inter- 
ruptions to do much, and dared not get into a vortex for 
fear of a break-down. 

Went about and saw people, and tried to be jolly. 
Did Jarley for a fair, also for Authors' Carnival at Music 
Hall. A queer time ; too old for such pranks. A sad 
heart and a used-up body make play hard work, I find. 

318 Louisa May Alcott. 

Read "Mary Wollstonecraft," "Dosia," " Danieli," 
" Helene," etc. I like Greville's books. 

Invest $1,000 for Fred's schooling, etc. Johnny has 
his $1,000 also safely in the bank for his education and 
any emergency. 

February. - - Home to Concord rather used up. Find 
a very quiet life is best ; for in B. people beset me to do 
things, and I try, and get so tired I cannot work. Dr. C. 
says rest is my salvation ; so I rest. Hope for Paris in 
the spring, as May begs me to come. She is leading 
what she calls " an ideal life," painting, music, love, 
and the world shut out. People wonder and gossip ; but 
M. and E. laugh and are happy. Wise people to enjoy 
this lovely time ! 

Went to a dinner, at the Revere House, of the Papyrus 
Club. Mrs. Burnett and Miss A. were guests of honor. 
Dr. Holmes took me in, and to my surprise I found my- 
self at the president's right hand, with Mrs. B., Holmes, 
Stedman, and the great ones of the land. Had a gay 
time. Dr. H. very gallant. " Little Women " often 
toasted with more praise than was good for me. 

Saw Mrs. B. at a lunch, and took her and Mrs. M. M. 
Dodge to Concord for a lunch. Most agreeable women. 

A visit at H. W.'s. Mission time at Church of the 
Advent. Father Knox-Little preached, and waked up 
the sinners. H. hoped to convert me, and took me to 
see Father K.-L., a very interesting man, and we had a 
pleasant talk ; but I found that we meant the same thing, 
though called by different names ; and his religion had 
too much ceremony about it to suit me. So he gave me 
his blessing, and promised to send me some books. 

[Never did. L. M. A.] 

Pleasant times with my " rainy- day friend," as I call 
Dr. W. She is a great comfort to me, with her healthy 

Family Changes. 319 

common-sense and tender patience, aside from skill as a 
doctor and beauty as a woman. I love her much, and 
she does me good. 

Happy letters from May. Her hopes of a little son or 
daughter in the autumn give us new plans to talk over. 
I must be well enough to go to her then. 

April. - - Very poorly and cross ; so tired of being a 
prisoner to pain. Long for the old strength when I 
could do what I liked, and never knew I had a body. 
Life not worth living in this way ; but having over- 
worked the wonderful machine, I must pay for it, and 
should not growl, I suppose, as it is just. 

To B. to see Dr. S. Told me I was better than she 
ever dreamed I could be, and need not worry. So took 
heart, and tried to be cheerful, in spite of aches and 
nerves. Warm weather comforted me, and green grass 
did me good. 

Put a fence round A.'s garden. Bought a phaeton, so 
I might drive, as I cannot walk much, and Father loves 
to take his guests about. 

May and June. Go to B. for a week, but don't 
enjoy seeing people. Do errands, and go home again. 
Saw " Pinafore ; " a pretty play. 

Much company. 

E.'s looked at the Orchard House and liked it ; will 
hire it, probably. Hope so, as it is forlorn standing 
empty. I never go by without looking up at Marmee's 
window, where the dear face used to be, and May's, with 
the picturesque vines round it. No golden-haired, blue- 
gowned Diana ever appears now; she sits happily sew- 
ing baby-clothes in Paris. Enjoyed fitting out a box of 
dainty things to send her. Even lonely old spinsters take 
an interest in babies. 

32O Louisa May Alcott. 

June. A poor month. Try to forget my own wor- 
ries, and enjoy the fine weather, my little carriage, and 
good friends. Souls are such slaves to bodies it is hard 
to keep up out of the slough of despond when nerves 
jangle and flesh aches. 

Went with Father on Sunday to the prison, and told 
the men a story. Thought I could not face four hun- 
dred at first ; but after looking at them during the ser- 
mon, I felt that I could at least amuse them, and they 
evidently needed something new. So I told a hospital 
story with a little moral to it, and was so interested in 
watching the faces of some young men near me, who 
drank in every word, that I forgot myself, and talked 
away "like a mother." One put his head down, and 
another winked hard, so I felt that I had caught them ; 
for even one tear in that dry, hard place would do 
them good. Miss McC. and Father said it was well 
done, and I felt quite proud of my first speech. [Sequel 

July. Wrote a little tale called "Jimmy's Cruise in 
the Pinafore," for " St. Nicholas ; " $100. 

\^th. The philosophers begin to swarm, and the buzz 
starts to-morrow. How much honey will be made is still 
doubtful, but the hive is ready and drones also. 

On the 1 5th, the School of Philosophy began in the 
study at Orchard House, thirty students ; Father, the 
dean. He has his dream realized at last, and is in glory, 
with plenty of talk to swim in. People laugh, but will 
enjoy something new in this dull old town ; and the fresh 
Westerners will show them that all the culture of the 
world is not in Concord. I had a private laugh when 
Mrs. asked one of the new-comers, with her supe- 
rior air, if she had ever looked into Plato. And the 
modest lady from Jacksonville answered, with a twinkle 

Family Changes. 321 

at me, "We have been reading Plato in Greek for the 
past six years." Mrs. subsided after that. 

[Oh, wicked L. M. A., who hates sham and loves a joke. 

L. M. A.] 

Was the first woman to register my name as a voter. 

August. To B. with a new " Scrap Bag." " Jimmy " 
to the fore. Wrote a little tale. 

The town swarms with budding philosophers, and they 
roost on our steps like hens waiting for corn. Father 
revels in it, so we keep the hotel going, and try to look 
as if we liked it. If they were philanthropists, I should 
enjoy it ; but speculation seems a waste of time when 
there is so much real work crying to be done. Why 
discuss the " unknowable ' till our poor are fed and the 
wicked saved? 

A young poet from New York came ; nice boy. 

Sixteen callers to-day. Trying to stir up the women 
about suffrage so timid and slow. 

Happy letters from May. Sophie N. is with her now. 
All well in the Paris nest. 

Passed a week in Magnolia with Mrs. H. School 
ended for this year. Hallelujah ! 

September. Home from the seaside refreshed, and go 
to work on a new serial for " St. Nicholas," " Jack and 
Jill." Have no plan yet but a boy, a girl, and a sled, with 
an upset to start with. Vague idea of working in Concord 
young folks and their doings. After two years of rest, I 
am going to try again ; it is so easy to make money now, 
and so pleasant to have it to give. A chapter a day is 
my task, and not that if I feel tired. No more fourteen 
hours a day ; make haste slowly now. 

Drove about and drummed up women to my suffrage 
meeting. So hard to move people out of the old ruts. 


322 Louisa May Alcott. 

I have n't patience enough ; if they won't see and work, 
I let 'em alone, and steam along my own way. 

May sent some nice little letters of an " Artist's Holi- 
day," and I had them printed ; also a book for artists 
abroad, very useful, and well done. / 

Eight chapters done. Too much company for work. 

October 8t/i. Dear Marmee's birthday. Never for- 
gotten. Lovely day. Go to Sleepy Hollow with flowers. 
Her grave is green ; blackberry vines with red leaves 
trail over it. A little white stone with her initials is at 
the head, and among the tall grass over her breast a little 
bird had made a nest ; empty now, but a pretty symbol 
of the refuge that tender bosom always was for all feeble 
and sweet things. Her favorite asters bloomed all about, 
and the pines sang overhead. So she and dear Beth are 
quietly asleep in God's acre, and we remember them 
more tenderly with each year that brings us nearer them 
and home. 

Went with Dr. W. to the Woman's Prison, at Sher- 
burne. A lovely drive, and very remarkable day and 
night. Read a story to the four hundred women, and 
heard many interesting tales. A much better place than 
Concord Prison, with its armed wardens, and " knock 
down and drag out ' : ' methods. Only women here, and 
they work wonders by patience, love, common-sense, and 
the belief in salvation for all. 

First proof from Scribner of "Jack and Jill." Mrs. D. 
likes the story, so I peg away very slowly. Put in Elly 
D. as one of my boys. The nearer I keep to nature, 
the better the work is. Young people much interested 
in the story, and all want to " go in." I shall have a 
hornet's nest about me if all are not angels. 

Father goes West. 

I mourn much because all say I must not go to May ; 

Family Changes. 323 

not safe ; and I cannot add to Mamma Nieriker's cares 
at this time by another invalid, as the voyage would upset 
me, I am so sea-sick. 

Give up my hope and long-cherished plan with grief. 
May sadly disappointed. I know I shall wish I had 
gone ; it is my luck. 

November. Went to Boston for a month, as some 
solace for my great disappointment. Take my room at 
the Bellevue, and go about a little. Write on " J. and J." 
Anxious about May. 

8//z. Little Louisa May Nieriker arrived in Paris at 
9 P. M., after a short journey. All doing well. Much 
rejoicing. Nice little lass, and May very happy. Ah, if 
I had only been there ! Too much happiness for me. 

25 th. Two years since Marmee went. How she 
would have enjoyed the little granddaughter, and all 
May's romance ! Perhaps she does. 

Went home on my birthday (forty-seven). Tried to 
have a little party for Nan and the boys, but it was 
rather hard work. 

Not well enough to write much, so give up my room. 
Can lie round at home, and it 's cheaper. 

December. May not doing well. The weight on my 
heart is not all imagination. She was too happy to have 
it last, and I fear the end is coming. Hope it is my 
nerves ; but this peculiar feeling has never misled me 

Invited to the breakfast to O. W. H. No heart to go. 

8//j. Little Lu one month old. Small, but lively. 
Oh, if I could only be there to see, to help ! This is 
a penance for all my sins. Such a tugging at my heart 
to be by poor May, alone, so far away. The N.'s are 
devoted, and all is done that can be ; but not one of her 
"very own" is there. 

324 Louisa May Alcott, 

Father came home. 

29//z. May died at 8 A. M., after three weeks of fever 
and stupor. Happy and painless most of the time. At 
Mr. W.'s funeral on the 3oth, \felt the truth before the 
news came. 

Wednesday, 31^. A dark day for us. A telegram 
from Ernest to Mr. Emerson tells us "May is dead." 
Anna was gone to B. ; Father to the post-office, anxious 
for letters, the last being overdue. I was alone when 
Mr. E. came. E. sent to him, knowing I was feeble, and 
hoping Mr. E. would soften the blow. I found him look- 
ing at May's portrait, pale and tearful, with the paper in 
his hand. " My child, I wish I could prepare you ; but 
alas, alas ! " There his voice failed, and he gave me the 

I was not surprised, and read the hard words as if 
I knew it all before. " I am prepared," I said, and 
thanked him. He was much moved and very tender. 
I shall remember gratefully the look, the grasp, the tears 
he gave me ; and I am sure that hard moment was made 
bearable by the presence of this our best and tenderest 
friend. He went to find Father but missed him, and 
I had to tell both him and Anna when they came. A 
very bitter sorrow for all. 

The dear baby may comfort E., but what can comfort 
us? It is the distance that is so hard, and the thought 
of so much happiness ended so soon. "Two years of 
perfect happiness " May called these married years, and 
said, " If I die when baby comes, don't mourn, for I 
have had as much happiness in this short time as many 
in twenty years." She wished me to have her baby and 
her pictures. A very precious legacy ! Rich payment 
for the little I could do for her. I see now why I lived, 
to care for May's child and not leave Anna all alone. 

Family Changes. 325 

January \st, 1880. A sad day mourning for May. 
Of all the trials in my life I never felt any so keenly as 
this, perhaps because I am so feeble in health that I 
cannot bear it well. It seems so hard to break up that 
happy little home and take May just when life was rich- 
est, and to leave me who had done my task and could 
well be spared. Shall I ever know why such things 

Letters came telling us all the sad story. May was 
unconscious during the last weeks, and seemed not to 
suffer. Spoke now and then of "getting ready for 
Louy," and asked if she had come. All was done that 
love and skill could do, but in vain. E. is broken- 
hearted, and good Madame N. and Sophie find their 
only solace in the poor baby. 

May felt a foreboding, and left all ready in case she 
died. Some trunks packed for us, some for the N. 
sisters. Her diary written up, all in order. Even chose 
the graveyard where she wished to be, out of the city. 
E. obeys all her wishes sacredly. 

Tried to write on "J. and J." to distract my mind ; 
but the wave of sorrow kept rolling over me, and I could 
only weep and wait till the tide ebbed again. 

February. More letters from E. and Madame N. 
Like us, they find comfort in writing of the dear soul 
gone, now there is nothing more to do for her. I cannot 
make it true that our May is dead, lying far away in a 
strange grave, leaving a husband and child whom we 
have never seen. It all reads like a pretty romance, 
now death hath set its seal on these two happy years ; 
and we shall never know all that she alone could 
tell us. 

Many letters from friends in France, England, and 
America, full of sympathy for us, and love and pride and 

326 Louisa May Alcott. 

gratitude for May, who was always glad to help, forgive, 
and love every one. It is our only consolation now. 

Father and I cannot sleep, but he and I make verses 
as we did when Marmee died. Our grief seems to flow 
into words. He writes " Love's Morrow " and " Our 

Lulu has gone to Baden with Grandmamma. 

Finish "J. and J." The world goes on in spite of 
sorrow, and I must do my work. Both these last serials 
were written with a heavy heart, " Under the Lilacs " 
when Marmee was failing, and "Jack and Jill" while 
May was dying. Hope the grief did not get into 

Hear R. W. E. lecture for his one hundredth time. 
Mary Clemmer writes for a sketch of my life for a book 
of " Famous Women." Don't belong there. 

Read " Memoirs of Madame de Remusat." Not very 
interesting. Beauties seldom amount to much. Plain 
Margaret Fuller was worth a dozen of them. " Kings in 
Exile," a most interesting book, a very vivid and terrible 
picture of Parisian life and royal weakness and sorrow. 

Put papers, etc., in order. I feel as if one should 
be ready to go at any moment. . . . 

March. A box came from May, with pictures, 
clothes, vases, her ornaments, a little work-basket, and, 
in one of her own sepia boxes, her pretty hair tied with 
blue ribbon, all that is now left us of this bright soul 
but the baby, soon to come. Treasures all. 

A sad day, and many tears dropped on the dear dress, 
the blue slippers she last wore, the bit of work she laid 
down when the call came the evening Lulu was born. 
The fur-lined sack feels like May's arms round me, and 
I shall wear it with pleasure. The pictures show us her 
great progress these last years. 

Family Changes. 327 

To Boston for a few days on business, and to try to for- 
get. Got gifts for Anna's birthday on the i6th, forty- 
nine years old. My only sister now, and the best God 
ever made. Repaired her house for her. 

Lulu is not to come till autumn. Great disappoint- 
ment ; but it is wiser to wait, as summer is bad for a 
young baby to begin here. 

29/7*. Town meeting. Twenty women there, and 
voted first, thanks to Father. Polls closed, in joke, 
we thought, as Judge Hoar proposed it ; proved to be 
in earnest, and we elected a good school committee. 
Quiet time ; no fuss. 

JANUARY 20, iSSo. 

DEAR MRS. DODGE, I have been so bowed down 
with grief at the loss of my dear sister just when our 
anxiety was over that I have not had a thought or care 
for anything else. 

The story is done ; but the last chapters are not copied, 
and I thought it best to let them lie till I could give my 
mind to the work. 

I never get a good chance to do a story without 
interruption of some sort. " Under the Lilacs " was fin- 
ished by my mother's bedside in her last illness, and this 
one when my heart was full of care and hope and then 
grief over poor May. 

I trust the misery did not get into the story ; but I 'm 
afraid it is not as gay as I meant most of it to be. 

I forgot to number the pages of the last two chapters, 
and so cannot number these. I usually keep the run, but 
this time sent off the parcel in a hurry. Can you send 
me the right number to go on with in chapter seventeen ? 
I can send you four more as soon as I hear. 

I don't believe I shall come to New York this winter. 

328 Louisa May Alcott. 

May left me her little daughter for my own ; and if she 
comes over soon, I shall be too busy singing lullabies to 
one child to write tales for others, or go anywhere, even 
to see my kind friends. 

A sweeter little romance has just ended in Paris than 
any I can ever make ; and the sad facts of life leave me 
no heart for cheerful fiction. 

Yours truly, L. M. ALCOTT. 




(Written October, 1886.) 

COURAGE and patience, these I ask, 
Dear Lord, in this my latest strait ; 

For hard I find my ten years' task, 
Learning to suffer and to wait. 

Life seems so rich and grand a thing, 
So full of work for heart and brain, 

It is a cross that I can bring 
No help, no offering, but pain. 

The hard-earned harvest of these years 

I long to generously share ; 
The lessons learned with bitter tears 

To teach again with tender care ; 

To smooth the rough and thorny way 
Where other feet begin to tread ; 

To feed some hungry soul each day 
\Yith sympathy's sustaining bread. 

So beautiful such pleasures show, 

1 long to make them mine ; 
To love and labor and to know 

The joy such living makes divine. 

But if I may not, I will only ask 
Courage and patience for my fate, 

And learn, dear Lord, thy latest task, - 
To suffer patiently and wait. 

33O Louisa May Alcott. 

early part of the year 1880 was in the 
JL deep shadow of sadness, from the death of 
Louisa's sister. Boxes full of May's pictures, 
clothes, and books came home to call up anew 
all the memories of the bright spirit who had 
blossomed into such beautiful life so quickly to 
fade away. 

Miss Alcott tried to rise above her grief and 
busy herself with new interests. She took an ac- 
tive part in the voting of the women in Concord, 
and rejoiced in the election of a good school com- 
mittee. In April she returned to her old rooms at 
the Bellevue, where she busied herself with drama- 
tizing " Michael Strogoff," which she never com- 
pleted. She kept up her interest in young girls, 
and received with pleasure a visit from thirty pupils 
of the Boston University, and she helped to give 
the children of the North End Mission a happy 
day at Walden Pond. She went to York for rest 
and refreshment during the summer. Her heart 
was filled with longing for the child, and every- 
thing was done with reference to its coming. 

As September brought cooler weather, over the 
sea came the little babe to the warm hearts that were 
longing to welcome her. No woman as true and 
loving as Louisa Alcott but has the mother-nature 
strong in her heart ; and she could not help feeling 
a new spring of love and life when the child of one 
so dear was put into her arms to be her very own. 
Rosy and healthy, full of life and energy, - - not a 
model of sainthood, but a real human nature, with 
a will to be regulated, not broken, with impulses to 
be trained, talents and tendencies to be studied, 

Last Years. 331 

and a true, loving heart to be filled with joy, 
Louisa found the child a constant source of inter- 
est and pleasure. She brought her up as she her- 
self had been trained, more by influences than 
by rules, and sought to follow the leadings which 
she found in the young nature rather than to make 
it over after a plan of her own. This new care and 
joy helped to fill up the void in her life from the 
loss of the mother for whom she had worked so 
faithfully and the pet sister to whom she had ever 
been a good providence. 

The principal interest of the next few years was 
the care of this child. It was a pleasant occupation 
to Louisa, occupying her heart, and binding her 
with new ties to younger generations. The journal 
tells all the simple story of the " voyage across 
the seas." 

Miss Alcott was very attractive to children, es- 
pecially to the little ones, who thronged about her 
and pleaded for stories ; but this was the first one 
who ever really filled the mother-longing in her 
heart. She was now truly a " marmee ; ' and re- 
membering the blessing which her own mother 
had been to her, her standard of motherhood must 
have been very high. Much care was now also 
given to her father, and she speaks with pride of 
her handsome old philosopher in his new suit of 

Miss Alcott was gratified by a visit from one of 
the men to whom she had spoken at Concord 
Prison. He told her his story, and she assisted 
him to find work, and had the satisfaction of hear- 
ing of his well-doing. 

332 Louisa May Alcott. 

There is little record of writing done at this 
period, Louisa's time and thoughts being absorbed 
by the child. In the autumn of iSSi she wrote a 
preface to a new edition of the " Prayers of Theo- 
dore Parker," and also one to the new edition of 

Louisa kept the birthdays of November, though 
with saddened heart. She wrote a tale for the 
Soldiers' Home, " My Red Cap," in " Proverb 
Stories," and another for the New England Hos- 
pital fair, " A Baby's Birthday ; " and also one for 
her old publisher. Such was the feeling toward 
her as a universal benefactor, that a poor woman 
wrote her begging her to send some Christmas 
gifts to her children, as they had asked her to 
write to Santa Claus for some. With Lulu's help 
she got up a box for the poor family, and then 
made a story out of the incident, for which she 
received a hundred dollars. 

A new project was that of a temperance society, 
which was felt to be needed in Concord. 

Louisa occupied herself much in looking over 
her mother's papers, and unfortunately destroyed 
them, instead of preparing a memoir of her as she 
had intended to do. It is a matter of great regret 
that she did not feel able to do this work, for Mrs. 
Alcott's letters would have been a most valuable 
record of the life of her time, as well as a treasury 
of bright thought and earnest feeling. Louisa was 
not willing to commit the task to any other hand, 
and the opportunity is gone. 

Last Years. 333 

To Mrs. Dodge. 

CONCORD, May 29. 

DEAR MRS. DODGE, I was away from home, so your 
letter did not reach me till I got back yesterday. 

Thanks for your kind thought of me, and recollections 
of the pleasant week when the L. L.'s had a lark. I 
should like another ; but in this work-a-day world busy 
folk don't get many, as we know. 

If I write a serial, you shall have it ; but I have my 
doubts as to the leisure and quiet needed for such tasks 
being possible with a year-old baby. Of course little 
Lu is a very remarkable child, but I fancy I shall feel as 
full of responsibility as a hen with one chick, and cluck 
and scratch industriously for the sole benefit of my 

She may, however, have a literary turn, and be my 
assistant, by offering hints and giving studies of character 
for my work. She comes in September, if well. 

If I do begin a new story, how would " An Old-Fashion- 
ed Boy " and his life do? I meant that for the title of a 
book, but another woman took it. You proposed a revo- 
lutionary tale once, but I was not up to it ; for this I 
have quaint material in my father's journals, letters, and 
recollections. He was born with the century, and had 
an uncle in the war of 1812 ; and his life was very pretty 
and pastoral in the early days. I think a new sort of 
story would n't be amiss, with fun in it, and the queer old 
names and habits. I began it long ago, and if I have a 
chance will finish off a few chapters and send them to 
you, if you like. 

Yours cordially, 


334 Louisa May Alcott. 

To Mr. Niles, about the new illustrated edition of 

"Little Women" 

YORK, July 20, iSSo. 

The drawings are all capital, and we had great fun 
over them down here this rainy day. . . . Mr. Merrill 
certainly deserves a good penny for his work. Such a 
fertile fancy and quick hand as his should be well paid, 
and I shall not begrudge him his well-earned compensa- 
tion, nor the praise I am sure these illustrations will earn. 
It is very pleasant to think that the lucky little story has 
been of use to a fellow-worker, and I am much obliged 
to him for so improving on my hasty pen-and-ink 
sketches. What a dear rowdy boy Teddy is with the 
felt basin on ! 

The papers are great gossips, and never get anything 
quite straight, and I do mean to set up my own estab- 
lishment in Boston (D. V.). Now I have an excuse for 
a home of my own, and as the other artistic and literary 
spinsters have a house, I am going to try the plan, for a 
winter at least. 

Come and see how cosey we are next October at 81 
Pinckney Street. Miss N. will receive. 

Yours truly, L. M. A. 

To Mrs. Dodge. 


DEAR MRS. DODGE, - The editor of " Harper's Young 
People " asked for a serial, and I declined ; then they 
wanted a short story for Christmas, and I sent one. But 
it was not long enough, though longer than most of my 
short $100 tales. 

Last Years. 335 

So I said, " If you don't want it, send it to ' Saint 
Nicholas.' " 

Therefore if " How It Happened ' : comes straying 
along, you will know what it means. If you don't want 
it, please send it to me in Boston, 81 Pinckney Street; 
for Christmas tales are always in demand, and I have no 
time to write more. 

You will like to know that my baby is safely here, a 
healthy, happy little soul, who comes like sunshine to our 
sad hearts, and takes us all captive by her winning ways 
and lovely traits. 

I shall soon be settled for the winter, and I hope have 
good times after the hard ones. 

Affectionately yours, 

L. M. A. 


April, 1880. So sad and poorly; w r ent to B. for a 
change. Old room at the Bellevue. 

Amused myself dramatizing " Michael Strogoff ; " read, 
walked, and rested. Reporters called for story of my 
life ; did not get much. Made my will, dividing all I 
have between Nan and the boys, with Father as a legacy 
to Nan, and to Lulu her mother's pictures and small 
fortune of $500. 

May. Thirty girls from Boston University called ; 
told stories, showed pictures, wrote autographs. Pleas- 
ant to see so much innocent enthusiasm, even about so 
poor a thing as a used-up old woman. Bright girls ! 
simple in dress, sensible ideas of life, and love of educa- 
tion. I wish them all good luck. 

Ordered a stone for May's grave like Marmee's and 
Beth's, for some day I hope to bring her dust home. 

336 Louisa May Alcott. 

Twenty- third is the anniversary of Mother's wedding. If 
she had lived, it would have been the golden wedding. 

Went to see St. Botolph's Club rooms. Very prim and 
neat, with easy chairs everywhere ; stained glass, and a 
pious little bar, with nothing visible but a moral ice- 
pitcher and a butler like a bishop. The reverend gentle- 
men will be comfortable and merry, I fancy, as there is 
a smoking-room and card-tables, as well as a library and 
picture-gallery. Divines nowadays are not as godly as in 
old times, it seems. 

Mrs. Dodge wants a new serial, but I doubt if I can 
do it ; boys, babies, illness, and business of all sorts leave 
no time for story- telling. 

June. We all enjoy the new rooms very much, and 
Father finds his study delightful. Prepare the Orchard 
House for W. T. Harris, who is to rent it. 

North End Mission children at Walden Pond. Help 
give them a happy day, eleven hundred of them. Get 
Anna and John off to Walpole. Cleaned house. 

Madame N. sends a picture of Lulu, a funny, fat 
little thing in her carriage. Don't realize that it is May's 
child, and that she is far away in a French cemetery, 
never to come home to us again. 

It is decided that Baby is to come to us in September. 

24///. Lizzie's birthday and Johnny's. He is fifteen, 
a lovely, good boy, whom every one loves. Got the 
Dean a new suit of clothes, as he must be nice for his 
duties at the School. Plato's toga was not so costly, 
but even he did not look better than my handsome old 

July and August. To York with boys. Rest and 
enjoy the fine air. Home in August, and let Anna go 
down. Four hundred callers since the School began. 
Philosophy is a bore to outsiders. 

Last Years. 337 

Got things ready for my baby, warm wrapper, and 
all the dear can need on her long journey. On the 2ist 
saw Mrs. Giles (who went for baby) off; the last time I 
went, it was to see May go. She was sober and sad, 
not gay as before ; seemed to feel it might be a longer 
voyage than we knew. The last view I had of her, 
was standing alone in the long blue cloak waving her 
hand to us, smiling with wet eyes till out of sight. How 
little we dreamed what an experience of love, joy, pain, 
and death she was going to ! 

A lonely time with all away. My grief meets me when 
I come home, and the house is full of ghosts. 

September. Put papers in order, and arrange things 
generally, to be in order when our Lulu comes. Make a 
cosey nursery for the darling, and say my prayers over 
the little white crib that waits for her, if she ever comes. 
God watch over her ! 

Paid my first poll- tax. As my head is my most valu- 
able piece of property, I thought $2 a cheap tax on it. 
Saw my townswomen about voting, etc. Hard work to 
stir them up ; cake and servants are more interesting. 

i8//z. In Boston, waiting for the steamer that brings 
my treasure. The ocean seems very wide and terrible 
when I think of the motherless little creature coming so 
far to us. 

igth. Lulu and Sophie N. arrived with poor G., 
worn out by anxiety. A stormy passage, and much 
care, being turned out of the stateroom I had engaged 
for them and paid for, by a rude New York dressmaker. 
No help for it, so poor G. went to a rat-hole below, and 
did her best. 

As I waited on the wharf while the people came off 
the ship, I saw several babies, and wondered each time 
if that was mine. At last the captain appeared, and in 


33 8 Louisa May Alcott. 

his arms a little yellow- haired thing in white, with its hat 
half off as it looked about with lively blue eyes and bab- 
bled prettily. Mrs. G. came along by it, and I knew it 
was Lulu. Behind, walked a lovely brown-eyed girl with 
an anxious face, all being new and strange to Sophie. 

I held out my arms to Lulu, only being able to say her 
name. She looked at me for a moment, then came to 
me, saying " Marmar" in a wistful way, and resting close 
as if she had found her own people and home at last, 
as she had, thank Heaven ! I could only listen while I 
held her, and the others told their tale. Then we got 
home as soon as we could, and dear baby behaved very 
well, though hungry and tired. 

The little princess was received with tears and smiles, 
and being washed and fed went quietly to sleep in her 
new bed, while we brooded over her and were never tired 
of looking at the little face of " May's baby." 

She is a very active, bright child, not pretty yet, being 
browned by sea air, and having a yellow down on her 
head, and a pug nose. Her little body is beautifully 
formed, broad shoulders, fine chest, and lovely arms. A 
happy thing, laughing and waving her hands, confiding 
and bold, with a keen look in the eyes so like May, 
who hated shams and saw through them at once. She 
always comes to me, and seems to have decided that I 
am really " Marmar." My heart is full of pride and joy, 
and the touch of the dear little hands seems to take 
away the bitterness of grief. I often go at night to see 
if she is really here, and the sight of the little head is 
like sunshine to me. Father adores her, and she loves 
to sit in his strong arms. They make a pretty picture 
as he walks in the garden with her to "see birdies." 
Anna tends her as she did May, who was her baby 
once, being ten years younger, and we all find life 

Last Years. 339 

easier to live now the baby has come. Sophie is a sweet 
girl, with much character and beauty. A charming sis- 
ter in love as in law. 

October. Happy days with Lulu and Sophie ; get- 
ting acquainted with them. Lulu is rosy and fair now, 
and grows pretty in her native air, a merry little lass, 
who seems to feel at home and blooms in an atmosphere 
of adoration. People come to see "Miss Alcott's baby," 
and strangers waylay her little carriage in the street 
to look at her; but she does not allow herself to be 

As Father wants to go West I decide to hire Cousin 
L. W.'s house furnished for the winter, so that Sophie 
and the boys can have a pleasant time. S. misses the 
gayety of her home-life in stupid Concord, where the 
gossip and want of manners strike her very disagreeably. 
Impertinent questions are asked her, and she is amazed 
at the queer, rude things people say. 

November 8/7*. Lulu's birthday. One year old. 
Her gifts were set out on a table for her to see when 
she came down in the afternoon, a little cake with one 
candle, a rose crown for the queen, a silver mug, dolly, 
picture-books, gay ball, toys, flowers, and many kisses. 
She sat smiling at her treasures just under her mother's 
picture. Suddenly, attracted by the sunshine on the face 
of the portrait which she knows is "Marmar," she held 
up a white rose to it calling " Mum ! Mum ! " and smiling 
at it in a way that made us all cry. A happy day for her, 
a sad one to us. 

Thanksgiving. Family dinner. 

Father at Syracuse, having conversations at Bishop 
Huntington's and a fine time everywhere. 

December. Too busy to keep much of a journal. 
My life is absorbed in my baby. On the twenty-third 

34 Louisa May Alcott. 

she got up and walked alone ; had never crept at all, 
but when ready ran across the room and plumped down, 
laughing triumphantly at her feat. 

Christmas. Tried to make it gay for the young 
folks, but a heavy day for Nan and me. Sixty gifts 
were set out on different tables, and all were much 
pleased. Sophie had many pretty things, and gave to 
all generously. 

A hard year for all, but when I hold my Lulu I feel 
as if even death had its compensations. A new world 
for me. 

Called down one day to see a young man. Found it 
one of those to whom I spoke at the prison in Concord 
last June. Came to thank me for the good my little 
story did him, since it kept him straight and reminded 
him that it is never too late to mend. Told me about 
himself, and how he was going to begin anew and wipe 
out the past. He had been a miner, and coming East 
met some fellows who made him drink ; while tipsy he 
stole something in a doctor's office, and having no friends 
here was sentenced to three years in prison. Did well, and 
was now out. Had a prospect of going on an expedition 
to South America with a geological surveying party. An 
interesting young man. Fond of books, anxious to do 
well, intelligent, and seemed eager to atone for his one 
fault. Gave him a letter to S. G. at Chicago. Wrote to 
the warden, who confirmed D.'s story and spoke well of 
him. Miss Willard wrote me later of him, and he seemed 
doing well. Asked if he might write to me, and did so 
several times, then went to S. A. and I hear no more. 
Glad to have said a word to help the poor boy. 

March, 1881. Voted for school committee. 

October. Wrote a preface for Parker's Prayers, just 
got out by F. B. Sanborn. 

Last Years. 341 

November. Forty-nine on 29th. Wrote a preface to 
the new edition of " Moods." 

8//z. Gave my baby tu.>o kisses when she woke, and 
escorted her down to find a new chair decked with 
ribbons, and a doll's carriage tied with pink ; toys, pic- 
tures, flowers, and a cake, with a red and a blue candle 
burning gayly. 

Wrote a tale for the Soldiers' Home, "My Red 
Cap," and one for the Woman's Hospital fair, "A 
Baby's Birthday." Also a tale for F. 

December. A poor woman in Illinois writes me to 
send her children some Christmas gifts, being too poor 
and ill to get any. They asked her to write to Santa 
Claus and she wrote to me. Sent a box, and made a 
story about it, $100. Lulu much interested, and kept 
bringing all her best toys and clothes " for poor little 
boys." A generous baby. 

To Mr. Nilcs. 


DEAR MR. NILES, Wendell Phillips wrote me a letter 
begging me to write a preface for Mrs. Robinson's " His- 
tory of the Suffrage Movement ; ' but I refused him, as I 
did Mrs. R., because I don't write prefaces well, and if I 
begin to do it there will be no end. . . . 

Cannot you do a small edition for her? All the be- 
lievers will buy the book, and I think the sketches of 
L. M. Child, Abby May, Alcott, and others will add much 
to the interest of the book. 

Has she seen you about it? Will you look at the 
manuscripts by and by, or do you scorn the whole 
thing? Better not; for we are going to win in time, 
and the friend of literary ladies ought to be also the 
friend of women generally. 

34 2 Louisa May Alcott. 

We are going to meet the Governor, council, and 
legislature at Mrs. Tudor's next Wednesday eve and 
have a grand set-to. I hope he will come out of the 
struggle alive. 

Do give Mrs. R. a lift if you can, and your petitioners 
will ever pray. 

Yours truly, L. M. A. 


DEAR MR. NILES, Thank you very much for so 
kindly offering to look at Mrs. R.'s book. It is always 
pleasant to find a person who can conquer his prejudices 
to oblige a friend, if no more. 

I think we shall be glad by and by of every little help 
we may have been able to give to this reform in its hard 
times, for those who take the tug now will deserve the 
praise when the work is done. 

I can remember when Antislavery was in just the 
same state that Suffrage is now, and take more pride in 
the very small help we Alcotts could give than in all the 
books I ever wrote or ever shall write. 

" Earth's fanatics often make heaven's saints," you 
know, and it is as well to try for that sort of promotion 
in time. 

If Mrs. R. does send her manuscripts I will help all I 
can in reading or in any other way. If it only records 
the just and wise changes Suffrage has made in the laws 
for women, it will be worth printing; and it is time 
to keep account of these first steps, since they count 

I, for one, don't want to be ranked among idiots, 
felons, and minors any longer, for I am none of the 
three, but very gratefully yours, 

L. M. A. 

Last Years. 343 

To Mrs. Stearns. 


DEAR MRS. STEARNS, Many thanks for the tender 
thoughtfulness which sends us the precious little notes 
from the dear dead hands. 

They are so characteristic that they bring both Mother 
and May clearly up before me, alive and full of patient 
courage and happy hopes. I am resigned to my blessed 
mother's departure, since life was a burden, and the 
heroic past made a helpless future very hard to think of. 
But May's loss, just when life was fullest and sweetest, 
seems very bitter to me still, in spite of the sweet baby 
who is an unspeakable comfort. I wish you could see 
the pretty creature who already shows many of her moth- 
er's traits and tastes. Her love of pictures is a passion, 
but she will not look at the common gay ones most 
babies enjoy. She chooses the delicate, well-drawn, and 
painted figures of Caldecott and Miss Greenaway ; over 
these she broods with rapture, pointing her little fingers 
at the cows or cats, and kissing the children with funny 
prattlings to these dumb playmates. She is a fine, tall 
girl, full of energy, intelligence, and health ; blonde 
and blue-eyed like her mother, but with her father's fea- 
tures, for which I am glad, for he is a handsome man. 
Louisa May bids fair to be a noble woman ; and I hope I 
may live to see May's child as brave and bright and 
talented as she was and, much happier in her fate. 

Father is at the West, busy and well. Anna joins me 
in thanks and affectionate regards. 

Ever yours, L. M. ALCOTT. 


March, 1882. Helped start a temperance society; 
much needed in C. A great deal of drinking, not 

344 Louisa May A Loll. 

among the Irish, but young American gentlemen, as 
well as farmers and mill hands. Women anxious to do 
something, but find no interest beyond a few. Have 
meetings, and try to learn how to work. I was secretary, 
and wrote records, letters, and sent pledges, etc. ; also 
articles in "Concord Freeman" and "Woman's Journal" 
about the union and town meetings. 

April. Read over and destroyed Mother's diaries, 
as she wished me to do so. A wonderfully interesting 
record of her life, from her delicate, cherished girlhood 
through her long, hard, romantic married years, old age, 
and death. Some time I will write a story or a memoir 
of it. 

Lulu's teeth trouble her ; but in my arms she seems to 
find comfort, for I tell stories by the dozen ; and lambs, 
piggies, and " tats " soothe her little woes. Wish I were 
stronger, so that. I might take all the care of her. We 
seem to understand each other, but my nerves make 
me impatient, and noise wears upon me. 

Mr. Emerson ill. Father goes to see him. E. held 
his hand, looking up at the tall, sorry old man, and say- 
ing, with that smile of love that has been Father's sun- 
shine for so many years, " You are very well, keep so, 
keep so." After Father left, he called him back and 
grasped his hand again, as if he knew it was for the last 
time, and the kind eyes said, " Good -by, my friend ! ' 

April 27, 1882, Louisa speaks most tenderly of 
the death of Mr. Emerson. He had been to her 
and to her family the truest and best of friends ; 
and her own profound reverence for him had been 
a strong influence, from the time when she played 
games with his children in the barn until she fol- 
lowed him to his honored grave. Let critics and 

Last Years. 345 

philosophers judge him by his intellect; in the 
hearts of this family, and in many an humble home 
besides, he will always be remembered as the ten- 
derest, most sympathetic, most loyal of all friends, 
whose bounty fell on them silently as the dew from 
heaven, and whose presence could brighten the 
highest joy and soothe the keenest sorrow they 
could ever know. 


Thursday, 27 th. Mr. Emerson died at 9 P.M. sud- 
denly. Our best and greatest American gone. The 
nearest and dearest friend Father has ever had, and the 
man who has helped me most by his life, his books, his 
society. I can never tell all he has been to me, from 
the time I sang Mignon's song under his window (a 
little girl) and wrote letters a la Bettine to him, my 
Goethe, at fifteen, up through my hard years, when his 
essays on Self-Reliance, Character, Compensation, Love, 
and Friendship helped me to understand myself and life, 
and God and Nature. Illustrious and beloved friend, 
goocl-by ! 

Sunday, 3O//z. Emerson's funeral. I made a yellow 
lyre of jonquils for the church, and helped trim it up. 
Private services at the house, and a great crowd at the 
church. Father read his sonnet, and Judge Hoar and 
others spoke. Now he lies in Sleepy Hollow among 
his brothers, under the pines he loved. 

I sat up till midnight to write an article on R. W. E. 
for the "Youth's Companion," that the children may 
know something of him. A labor of love. 

May. Twenty-seven boys signed pledge. Temper- 
ance work. Meetings. I give books to schools. Wrote 
an article for Mrs. Croly on R. W. E. 

346 Louisa May Alcott. 

June. I visited A. B. in Mattapoisset for a week. A 
queer time, driving about or talking over our year in 
Europe. School children called upon me with flowers, 

24//z. John's seventeenth birthday. A dear boy, 
good and gay, full of love, manliness, and all honest and 
lovely traits, like his father and mother. Long life to 
my boy ! 

July. School of Philosophy opens on the iyth in 
full force. I arrange flowers, oak branches, etc., and 
then fly before the reporters come. Father very happy. 
Westerners arrive, and the town is full with ideal specu- 
lators. Penny has a new barge ; we call it the " Blue 
Plato" (not the "Black Maria"), and watch it nimble 
by with Margaret Fullers in white muslin and Hegels in 
straw hats, while stout Penny grins at the joke as he puts 
money in his purse. The first year Concord people stood 
aloof, and the strangers found it hard to get rooms. Now 
every one is eager to take them, and the School is pro- 
nounced a success because it brings money to the town. 
Even philosphers can't do without food, beds, and wash- 
ing ; so all rejoice, and the new craze flourishes. If all 
our guests paid we should be well off; several hundred 
a month is rather wearing. Father asked why we never 
went, and Anna showed him a long list of four hundred 
names of callers, and he said no more. 

October. To Hotel Bellevue with John. 

Missed my dear baby, but need quiet. Brain began 
to work, and plans for tales to simmer. Began "Jo's 
Boys," as Mrs. Dodge wants a serial. 

In the autumn of 1882 Mr. Alcott was attacked 
by a severe stroke of paralysis, from which he 
never fully recovered ; and for the rest of his life 

Last Years. 347 

his daughters shared in the duty of tending and 
caring for him in his enfeebled state. It had been 
the great reward of Louisa's years of hard work 
that she could surround her mother with every 
comfort that could make her happy in her last 
declining years. Not less had she delighted to 
gratify every wish of her father. His library was 
fitted up with exquisite taste, his books and manu- 
scripts bound, and he was " throned in philosophic 
ease ' for the rest of his days. What a relief it 
was now that she could have the faithful nurse 
ready at his call; that she could give him the 
pleasant drives which he enjoyed so much ; and 
lighten her sister's labors with every assistance 
that money could procure ! 

The Orchard House, which had been the family 
home for twenty-five years, was sold to Mr. Harris, 
and Mrs. Pratt's house was the home of all. Louisa 
spent part of the summer at the seashore, and 
finally bought a small house at Nonquit, where 
the children could all spend the summer, while 
she and her sister alternated in the care of her 

In the autumn of 1885, Miss Alcott decided to 
take a furnished house in Louisburg Square. Her 
nephews were established in Boston, and their 
mother wished to be with them. Mr. Alcott bore 
the moving well, and they found many comforts 
in the arrangement. Louisa's health was very 
feeble. She had great trouble in the throat, and 
her old dyspeptic symptoms returned to annoy 
her. Still she cannot give up work, and busies 
herself in preparing "Lulu's Library' for publi- 

Louisa May Alcott. 

cation, and hopes to be able to work on "Jo's 

"Lulu's Library' was a collection of stories 
which had been the delight of the child. The first 
series was published in 1885, the second in 1887, 
and the third in 1889. They are full of Louisa's 
charming qualities, and have a special interest from 
the tender feeling with which she gathered them 
up for her niece. The touching preface to " Jo's 
Boys ' tells of the seven years of occasional work 
on this book, and reveals the depth of feeling 
which would not allow her to write as formerly of 
Marmee and Amy, who were no longer here to 
accept their own likenesses. During the latter 
part of her work on this book, she could only 
write from half an hour to one or two hours a 
day. This was published in September, 1886. It 
contains an engraving of her from a bas-relief by 
Mr. Ricketson. 

This book was written under hard circumstances, 
and cost its author more effort perhaps than any 
other. It is evidently not the overflow of her de- 
light and fun in life like " Little Women," but it is 
full of biographical interest. Her account of her 
own career, and of the annoyances to which her 
celebrity exposed her, is full of her old spirit and 
humor. She has expressed many valuable thoughts 
on education, and her spirit is as hopeful for her 
boys as in her days of youth and health. She has 
too many characters to manage ; but we feel a keen 
interest in the fortunes of Dan and Emil, and in the 
courtship by the warm-hearted Tom of his medical 

Last Years. 349 

Preface to " Jo's Boys" 

Having been written at long intervals during the past 
seven years, this story is more faulty than any of its very 
imperfect predecessors ; but the desire to atone for an 
unavoidable disappointment, and to please my patient 
little friends, has urged me to let it go without further 

To account for the seeming neglect of Amy, let me 
add, that, since the original of that character died, it has 
been impossible for me to write of her as when she was 
here to suggest, criticise, and laugh over her namesake. 
The same excuse applies to Marmee. But the folded 
leaves are not blank to those who knew and loved them 
and can find memorials of them in whatever is cheerful, 
true, or helpful in these pages. 


CONCORD, July 4, 1886. 

To Mr. Horace Chandler. 

DEAR MR. CHANDLER, The corrections are certainly 
rather peculiar, and I fear my struggles to set them right 
have only produced greater confusion. 

Fortunately punctuation is a free institution, and all 
can pepper to suit the taste. I don't care much, and 
always leave proof-readers to quibble if they like. 

Thanks for the tickets. I fear I cannot come till 
Thursday, but will try, and won't forget the office, since 
I am not that much-tried soul the editor. 

Yours truly, 

L. M. A. 

35 Louisa May Alcott. 

To Mrs. Williams (Betsey Prig}. 

NONQUIT, August 25. 

DEAR BETSEY, I am so sorry the darling Doll is ill ! 
Brood over him, and will him well; for mother-love 
works wonders. 

My poppet is a picture of health, vigor, and delightful 
naughtiness. She runs wild in this fine place with some 
twenty other children to play with, nice babies, well- 
bred, and with pleasant mammas for me to gossip with. 

It would be a good place for your little people, as the 
air is delicious, bathing safe and warm, and cottages to be 
quiet in if one cares to keep house. Do try it next year. 
Let me know early. I can get a nice little cot for you 
(near mine) for $100, or perhaps less, from June to Oc- 
tober, if you care to stay ; I do. . . . 

We have been here since July, and are all hearty, 
brown, and gay as larks. 

"John Inglesant " was too political for me. I am too 
lazy here to read much ; mean to find a den in Boston 
and work for a month or two ; then fly off to New York, 
and perhaps run over and see my Betsey. I shall be at 
home in October, and perhaps we may see you then, if 
the precious little shadow gets nice and well again, and I 
pray he may. 

Lulu has some trifling ail now and then, just enough 
to show me how dear she is to us all, and what a great 
void the loss of our little girl would make in hearts and 
home. She is very intelligent and droll. When I told 
her the other day that the crickets were hopping and 
singing in the grass with their mammas, she said at once, 
" No ; their Aunt Weedys." Aunty is nearer than mother 
to the poor baby ; and it is very sweet to have it so, sines 
it must be. 

Last Years. 351 

Now, my blessed Betsey, keep a brave heart, and I am 
sure all will be well in the nest. Love and kisses to the 
little birds, and all good wishes to the turtle-dove and her 


Yours ever, L. M. A. 

The older birthdays are 2Qth of November, Lulu's 
the 8th ; so we celebrate for Grandpa, Auntie, and Lulu 
all at once, in great style, eighty-three, fifty, and three 
years old. 

When I get on my pins I 'm going (D. V.) to devote 
myself to settling poor souls who need a gentle boost in 
hard times. 

To Mr. Niles. 

JUNE 23, 1883. 

DEAR MR. NILES, Thanks for the Goethe book. I 
want everything that comes out about him. " Princess 
Amelia " is charming, and the surprise at the end well 
done. Did the author of " My Wife's Sister " write it? 

I told L. C. M. she might put "A Modern Mephis- 
topheles " in my list of books. Several people had found 
it out, and there was no use hi trying to keep it secret 
after that. 

Mrs. Dodge begged me to consider myself mortgaged 
to her for tales, etc., and as I see no prospect of any 
time for writing books, I may be able to send her some 
short stories from time to time, and so be getting mate- 
rial for a new set of books like " Scrap-bag," but with 
a new name. You excel in names, and can be evolving 

one meantime. . . . 

Yours truly, L. M. A. 

JULY 15, 1884. 

I wish I might be inspired to do those dreadful boys 
[" Jo's Boys"] ; but rest is more needed than money. 

352 Louisa May Alcott. 

Perhaps during August, my month at home, I may take 
a grind at the old mill. 



October 24, 1882. Telegram that Father had had a, 
paralytic stroke. Home at once, and found him stricken 
down. Anxious days ; little hope. 

November. Gave up our rooms, and I went home to 
help with the new care. My Lulu ran to meet me, rosy 
and gay, and I felt as if I could bear anything with this 
little sunbeam to light up the world for me. 

Poor Father dumb and helpless ; feeble mind slowly 
coming back. He knows us ; but he 's asleep most of 
the time. Get a nurse, and wait to see if he will rally. 
It is sad to see the change one moment makes, turning 
the hale, handsome old man into this pathetic wreck. 
The forty sonnets last winter and the fifty lectures at the 
School last summer were too much for a man of eighty- 
three. He was warned by Dr. W., but thought it folly 
to stop ; and now poor Father pays the penalty of break- 
ing the laws of health. I have done the same : may I 
be spared this end ! 

January, 1883. Too busy to keep a diary. Can 
only jot down a fact now and then. 

Father improving. Much trouble with nurses ; have 
no idea of health ; won't walk ; sit over the fire, and drink 
tea three times a day ; ought to be an intelligent, hearty 
set of women. Could do better myself; have to fill up 
all the deficiencies and do double duty. 

People come to see Father ; but it excites him, and we 
have to deny him. 

February. To B. for a week of rest, having got Mrs. 
H. settled with Father, and all comfortable for November. 

Began a book called " Genius." Shall never finish it, 

Last Years. 353 

I dare say, but must keep a vent for my fancies to escape 
at. This double life is trying, and my head will work as 
well as my hands. 

March. To give A. rest I took Lulu and maid to 
the Bellevue for a month. Lulu very happy with her new 
world. Enjoys her walks, the canary I got her, and the 
petting she gets from all. Showed her to friends ; want 
them to know May's child. Had her picture taken by 
Notman ; very good. 

April 2d. Town meeting. Seven women vote. I am 
one of them, and A. another. A poor show for a town 
that prides itself on its culture and independence. 

6th. Go home to stay; Father needs me. New 
nurse ; many callers ; Lulu fretful, Anna tired, Father 
feeble, hard times for all. 

Wrote a story for " St. Nicholas ' at odd moments. 
Nurses and doctors take a deal of money. 

May. Take care of Lulu, as we can find no good 
woman to walk and dress and play with her. The ladies 
are incapable or proud ; the girls vulgar or rough ; so my 
poor baby has a bad time with her little temper and 
active mind and body. Could do it myself if I had the 
nerves and strength, but am needed elsewhere, and must 
leave the child to some one. Long to go away with her 
and do as I like. Shall never lead my own life. 

July. Go to Nonquit with Miss H. and Lulu for the 
summer. A quiet, healthy place, with pleasant people 
and fine air. Turn Lulu loose, with H. to run after her, 
and try to rest. 

Lulu takes her first bath in the sea. Very bold ; 
walks off toward Europe up to her neck, and is much 
afflicted that I won't let her go to the bottom and see 
the " little trabs ; " makes a cupid of herself, and is very 
pretty and gay. 


354 Louisa May Alcott. 

The boys revel in the simple pleasures of Nonquit, 
a fine place for them to be in. 

Wrote a tale for " St. Nicholas," " Sophie's Secret," 

August. Home to C., and let A. come for her holi- 

o * 

day. Much company. 

P. C. Mozoomdar preached, and had a conversation at 
Mrs. Emerson's ; a most interesting man. Curious to 
hear a Hindu tell how the life of Christ impressed him. 

November 27^/2. Decide to lessen care and worry at 
home ; so take rooms in Boylston Street, and with Lulu 
set forth to make a home of our own. The whole parlor 
floor gives my lady room to run in doors, and the Public 
Garden opposite is the out-door play-ground. Miss C. 
comes as governess, and we settle down. Fred boards 
with us. Heard Mathew Arnold. 

29/7*. Birthday, fifty-one. Home with gifts to 
poor Father, eighty- four. Found a table full for 

December 2$th. Home with gifts for all; sad day. 
See H. Martineau's statue ; very fine. 

January, 1884. New Year's Day is made mem- 
orable by my solemnly spanking my child. Miss C. and 
others assure me it is the only way to cure her wilful- 
ness. I doubt it ; but knowing that mothers are usually 
too tender and blind, I correct my dear in the old- 
fashioned way. She proudly says, " Do it, do it ! " and 
when it is done is heartbroken at the idea of Aunt Wee- 
wee's giving her pain. Her bewilderment was pathetic, 
and the effect, as I expected, a failure. Love is better ; 
but also endless patience. 

February 2d. Wendell Phillips died. I shall mourn 
for him next to R. W. E. and Parker. 

6th. Funeral at Hollis Street Church. Sat between 

Last Years. 355 

Fred Douglas and his wife. A goodly gathering of all left 

of the old workers. Glad and proud to be among them. 


June. Sell the Orchard House to W. T. Harris. 
Glad to be done with it, though after living in it twenty- 
five years, it is full of memories ; but places have not 
much hold on me when the dear persons who made them 
dear are gone. . . . 

Bought a cottage at Nonquit, with house and furniture. 
All like it, and it is a good investment I am told. 

2^th. To Nonquit with Lulu and K, and John. 
Fixed my house, and enjoyed the rest and quiet im- 
mensely. Lulu wild with joy at the freedom. . . . 

July and August. Restful days in my little house, 
which is cool and quiet, and without the curse of a 
kitchen to spoil it. 

Lulu happy and well, and every one full of summer fun. 

On the yth of August I went home, and let A. go for 
her holiday. 

Took care of Father and house, and idled away the hot 
days with books and letters. Drove with Father, as he 
enjoyed it very much. . . . 

October. To Boston with John, and take rooms at 
the Bellevue. Very tired of home-worry, and fly for rest 
to my old refuge, with J. and L. to look after and make 
a home for. 

Saw Irving. Always enjoy him, though he is very queer. 
Ellen Terry always the same, though charming in her way. 

November. Find Bellevue uncomfortable and expen- 
sive, so take rooms in Chestnut Street for self and boys. 

$>th. My Lulu's birthday. Go home with flowers, 
gifts, and a grateful heart that the dear little girl is so 
well and happy and good. A merry day with the little 
queen of the house. 

356 Louisa May Alcott. 

2gfh. Our birthday, Father eighty- five ; L. M. A. 
fifty-two. Quiet day ; always sad for thinking of Mother 
and John and May, who all left us at this season. 

December.- -Began again on "Jo's Boys," as T. N. 
wants a new book very much, and I am tired of being 
idle. Wrote two hours for three days, then had a violent 
attack of vertigo, and was ill for a week. Head won't 
bear work yet. Put away papers, and tried to dawdle 
and go about as other people do. 

Pleasant Christmas with Lulu and Nan and poor 
Father, who loves to see us about him. A narrow 
world now, but a happy one for him. 

Last day of the year. All well at home except my- 
self; body feeble, but soul improving. 

Jaunary i, 1885. Pleasant greeting from brother 
Ernest by telegram, never forgets us. Opera in the 
evening, Emma Nevada. Sent box home. Very cold. 

John had his first dress-suit. Happy boy ! Several 
pleasant Sunday evenings at E. P. W.'s. See Mrs. Bur- 
nett, and like her. 

Visit Blind Asylum and North End Mission. Lulu 
passed a week with me for a change. 

19^. An old-fashioned party in an old-time house. 
All in antique costume ; Lulu very pretty in hers. Coun- 
try kitchen and country fare ; spinning and weaving ; 
old songs and dances ; tally-ho coach with P. as an 
ancient Weller, very funny. 

June. Read Life of Saint Elizabeth by D'Alembert, 

- quaint and sweet ; also French novels. Write out the 

little tales I tell Lulu for a new Christmas book, having 

nothing else. Send one, "The Candy Country," to 

"St. Nicholas." 

Last Years. 357 

August %th. Go home, and A. goes to N. Take 
care of Father, arrange the little tales, and look at 
houses in B. Have a plan to take a furnished house 
for the winter, and all be together. A. is lonely in C. ; 
boys must be near business. I want Lulu, and Father 
will enjoy a change. 

Sorted old letters, and burned many. Not wise to 
keep for curious eyes to read and gossip-lovers to print 
by and by. 

Lived in the past for days, and felt very old, recalling 
all I have been through. Experiences go deep with me, 
and I begin to think it might be well to keep some 
record of my life, if it will help others to read it when 
I 'm gone. People seem to think our lives interesting 
and peculiar. 

September. After a lively time with house-brokers, I 
take a house in Louisburg Square for two years. It is a 
large house, furnished, and well suited to our needs, 
sunny, trees in front, good air, and friends near by. All 
are pleased, and we prepare to move October ist. . . . 

Father drove down very nicely. Pleased with his new 
room ; Lulu charmed with her big, sunny nursery and 
the play-house left for her; boys in clover; and Nan 
ready for the new sort of housekeeping. 

I shall miss my quiet, care- free life in B. ; but it is 
best for all, so I shall try to bear the friction and the 
worry many persons always bring me. 

It will be an expensive winter ; but T. N. tells me the 
books never sold better, so a good run in January will 
make all safe. 

"Lulu's Library" as a "pot-boiler" will appease the 
children, and I may be able to work on "Jo's Boys." 

March, 1886. --To Mrs. H.'s to hear Mr. Snyder 
read the " Iliad ; ' enjoyed it. 


358 Louisa May Alcctt. 

Sixteen little girls call, and the autograph fiend is 

27/7?. Another attack of vertigo, ill for a week; 
sleepless nights. Head worked like a steam-engine ; 
would not stop. Planned "Jo's Boys" to the end, and 
longed to get up and write it. Told Dr. W. that he had 
better let me get the ideas out, then I could rest. He 
very wisely agreed, and said, " As soon as you can, write 
half an hour a day, and see if it does you good. Rebel- 
lious brains want to be attended to, or trouble comes." 
So I began as soon as able, and was satisfied that we 
were right ; for my head felt better very soon, and with 
much care about not overdoing, I had some pleasant 
hours when I forgot my body and lived in my mind. 

April. Went on writing one or two hours a day, and 
felt no ill effects. 

May. Began to think of Concord, and prepare to go 
back for the summer. Father wants his books ; Lulu, 
her garden ; Anna, her small house ; and the boys, their 
friends. I want to go away and rest. 

Anna goes up the last of the month and gets the 
house ready. We send Lulu and Father later, and the 
boys and I shut up No. 10. . . . 

June. Home in C., sunny, clean, and pleasant. 
Put Lulu in order, and get ready for a month in Prince- 
ton with Mrs. H. Very tired. 

A quiet three weeks on the hillside, a valley pink 
with laurel in front, Mount Wachusett behind us, and 
green hills all round. A few pleasant people. I read, 
sleep, walk, and write, get fifteen chapters done. In- 
stinct was right ; after seven years of rest, the old brain 
was ready for work and tired of feeding on itself, since 
work it must at something. Enjoyed Hedge's " Hours 
with German Classics," and "Baldwin," by Vernon Lee. 

Last Years. 359 

Home in time to get Anna and Lulu off to N. for 
the summer. A. needs the rest very much, and Lulu 
the freedom. I shall revel in the quiet, and finish my 

July. The seashore party get off, and peace reigns. 
I rest a day, and then to work. Finish "Jo's Boys," 
and take it to T. N. Much rejoicing over a new book. 
Fifty thousand to be the first edition ; orders coming in 
fast. Not good, too great intervals between the parts, 
as it was begun long ago ; but the children will be happy, 
and my promise kept. Two new chapters were needed, 
so I wrote them, and gladly corked my inkstand. 

What next? Mrs. Dodge wants a serial, and T. N. a 
novel. I have a dozen plots in my head, but think the 
serial better come first. Want a great deal of money for 
many things ; every poor soul I ever knew comes for 
help, and expenses increase. I am the only money- 
maker, and must turn the mill for others, though my 
own grist is ground and in the barn. 

The School begins. Father feeble, but goes, for 
the last time, I think. 

A series of letters to her father's friend, Mrs. 
Stearns, show how tenderly and carefully Louisa 
watched over the slow decline of the stricken 
man, but they are too full of details of the sick- 
room for publication. A few extracts will give 
her feeling. 

MAY 23 [1885]. 

DEAR MRS. STEARNS, Many thanks for the sweet 
nosegay you sent me. It came in good time, for to- 
day is the anniversary of Father's wedding-day and my 
sister's silver wedding. Rather sad for both mateless 

360 Louisa May Alcott. 

ones ; but we have done our best to cheer them up, and 
the soft rain is very emblematic of the memories their 
own quiet tears keep green. 

Father remembered you, and smelled his flowers with 
pleasure. He is very tired of living, and wants to " go 
up," as he expresses it. A little more or little less light 
would make him happier; but the still active mind beats 
against the prison bars, and rebels against the weakness 
of body that prevents the old independent life. I am 
afraid the end is not to be peaceful unless it is sudden, 
as I hope it may be for all our sakes ; it is so wearing to 
see this slow decline, and be able to do little but preach 
and practise patience. 


Affectionately yours, L. M. A. 



It is only a temporary change, perhaps ; but I still 
hope that it will last, and his mind grow still clearer. 
These painless, peaceful days have a certain sweetness, 
sad as it is to see the dear, hale old man so feeble. If 
he can know us, and enjoy something of the old life, 
it is worth having, though the end may come at any 
moment. . . . 

Now and then a word comes without effort. " Up ! ' 
was the first one, and seems very characteristic of this 
beautiful, aspiring soul, almost on the wing for heaven. 

To Mr. Niles. 

NONQUIT, July 13, 1885. 

DEAR MR. NILES, I want to know if it is too late to 
do it and if it is worth doing ; namely, to collect some 
of the little tales I tell Lulu and put them with the two I 

Last Years. 361 

shall have printed the last year and the " Mermaid Tale ' 
to match the pictures we bought, and call it " Lulu's 
Library"? I have several tiny books written down for 
L. ; and as I can do no great work, it occurred to me that 
I might venture to copy these if it would do for a Christ- 
mas book for the younger set. 

I ache to fall on some of the ideas that are simmering 
in my head, but dare not, as my one attempt since the 
last "Jo's Boys" break-down cost me a week or two of 
woe and $30 for the doctor. I have lovely long days here, 
and can copy these and see 'em along if you want them. 
One has gone to " Harper's Young People," and one is for 
" St. Nicholas " when it is done, about the Kindergarten 
for the blind. These with Lulu's would make a little 
book, and might begin a series for small folks. Old 
ladies come to this twaddle when they can do nothing 
else. What say you? . . . 

Yours truly, 

L. M. A. 

SEPTEMBER 18, 1885. 

DEAR MR. NILES, I send you some funny sketches by 
Mrs. L. She seems to be getting on. How would it do 
to ask her to illustrate the fairy book? She has a pretty 
taste in elves, and her little girl was good. I hope to 
touch up the other stories this winter, and she can illus- 
trate, and next Christmas (or whenever it is ready) we 
can have a little book out. This sort of work being all I 
dare do now, I may as well be clearing the decks for 
action when the order comes to " Up, and at 'em ! ' 
again, if it ever does. 

I 'd like to help Mrs. L. if I could, as we know some- 
thing of her, and I fancy she needs a lift. Perhaps we 
could use these pictures in some way if she liked to have 

Fac-simile of Miss Alcotfs Writing. 

JJ. <N v 


N. V^ ~"\ 

Ar^r-^ 'sJ^^^ ^l^-^r^J 

X <* 

Fac- simile of Miss Alcotf s Writing. 363 



v/ ^9-o 


^ -^S5 -o 



364 Louisa May Alcott. 

us. Maybe I could work them into a story of our 
" cullud bredren." 

Thanks for the books. Dear Miss is rather prim 

in her story, but it is pretty and quite correct. So differ- 
ent from Miss Alcott's slap-dash style. 

The " H. H." book [" Ramona "] is a noble record of 
the great wrongs of her chosen people, and ought to wake 
up the sinners to repentance and justice before it is too 
late. It recalls the old slavery days, only these victims 
are red instead of black. It will be a disgrace if " H. H." 
gave her work and pity all in vain. 

Yours truly, L. M. A. 


DEAR MR. NILES, Thanks for the book which I shall 
like to read. 

Please tell Miss N. that she will find in Sanborn's 
article in " St. Nicholas " or Mrs. Moulton's in the " Emi- 
nent Women " book all that I wish to have said about 
myself. You can add such facts about editions, etc., as 
you think best. I don't like these everlasting notices ; 
one is enough, else we poor people feel like squeezed 
oranges, and nothing is left sacred. 

George Eliot's new life and letters is well done, and we 
are not sorry we have read them. Mr. Cross has been a 
wise man, and leaves us all our love and respect instead 
of spoiling them as Froude did for Carlyle, 

Yours truly, L. M. A. 

JANUARY 2, 1886. 

DEAR MR. NILES, Thanks for the good wishes and 
news. Now that I cannot work, it is very agreeable to 
hear that the books go so well, and that the lazy woman 
need not worry about things. 

Last Years. 365 

I appreciate my blessings, I assure you. I heartily 
wish I could " swamp the book-room with ' Jo's Boys,' 
as Fred says, and hope to do it by and by when head and 
hand can safely obey the desire of the heart, which will 
never be too tired or too old to remember and be 


Your friend, L. M. ALCOTT. 

MONDAY, A. M. [i8S6J. 1 

DEAR MR. NILES, My doctor forbids me to begin a 
long book or anything that will need much thought this 
summer. So I must give up "Tragedy of To-day," as it 
will need a good deal of thinking to be what it ought. 

I can give you a girls' book however, and I think that 
will be better than a novel. I have several stories done, 
and can easily do more and make a companion vol- 
ume for " Spinning- Wheel Stories ' at Christmas if you 
want it. 

This, with the Lulu stories, will be better than the set 
of novels I am sure. . . . Wait till I can do a novel, and 
then get out the set in style, if Alcott is not forgotten by 
that time. 

I was going to send Mrs. Dodge one of the tales for 
girls, and if there is time she might have more. But 
nearly all new ones would make a book go well in the 
holiday season. You can have those already done now if 
you want them. " Sophie's Secret ' is one, " An Ivy 
Spray: or Cinderella's Slippers " another, and "Moun- 
tain Laurel ' is partly done. " A Garland for Girls ' 
might do for a title perhaps, as they are all for girls. 

Yours truly, L. M. A. 

In the spring of 1886, Dr. Rhoda Lawrence took 
charge of Miss Alcott' s health, and gave her treat- 

366 Louisa May Alcott. 

ment by massage and other appropriate means, from 
which she received benefit. The summer was spent 
at Concord with her father, and was varied by a 
pleasant trip to the mountains. Miss Alcott fin- 
ished "Jo's Boys," which was published in Sep- 
tember. She occupied herself also in looking 
over old journals and letters, and destroyed many 
things which she did not wish to have come under 
the public eye. She had enjoyed her life at Prince- 
ton, and said that she felt better than for fifteen 
years; but in August she was severely attacked 
with rheumatism and troubled with vertigo. She 
suffered very much, and was in a very nervous 

Miss Alcott always looked bravely and calmly 
upon all the possibilities of life, and she now made 
full preparations for the event of her own death. 
Her youngest nephew had always been especially 
beloved, and she decided to take out papers of 
adoption, to make him legally her son and heir. 
She wished him to assume the name of Alcott, and 
to be her representative. 

Louisa's journal closes July, 1886, with the old 
feeling, that she must grind away at the mill and 
make money to supply the many claims that press 
upon her from all sides. She feels the burden 
of every suffering human life upon her own soul. 
She knew that she could write what was eagerly 
desired by others and would bring her the means 
of helping those in need, and her heart and head 
united in urging her to work. Whether it would 
have been possible for her to have rested more 
fully, and whether she might then have worked 

Last Years. 367 

longer and better, is one of those questions which 
no one is wise enough to answer. Yet the warning 
of her life should not be neglected, and the eager 
brain should learn to obey the laws of life and 
health- while it is yet time. 

In September, 1886, Miss Alcott returned to 
Louisburg Square, and spent the winter in the care 
of her father, and in the society of her sister and 
nephews and the darling child. She suffered much 
from hoarseness, from nervousness and debility, and 
from indigestion and sleeplessness, but still exerted 
herself for the comfort of all around her. She had 
a happy Christmas, and sympathized with the joy 
of her oldest nephew in his betrothal. In Decem- 
ber she was so weary and worn that she went out 
to Dr. Lawrence's home in Roxbury for rest and 
care. She found such relief to her overtasked 
brain and nerves from the seclusion and quiet of 
Dunreath Place, that she found her home and rest 
there for the remainder of her life. 

It was a great trial to Louisa to be apart from 
her family, to whom she had devoted her life. She 
clung to her dying father, and to the dear sister still 
left to her, with increasing fondness, and she longed 
for her boys and her child ; but her tired nerves 
could not bear even the companionship of her 
family, and sometimes for days she wanted to be 
all alone. " I feel so safe out here ! ' she said 

Mr. Alcott spent the summer at Melrose, and 
Louisa went there to visit him in June. In June 
and July, 1887, she went to Concord and looked 
over papers and completed the plan for adopting 

368 Louisa May Alcott. 

her nephew. She afterward went to Princeton, ac- 
companied by Dr. Lawrence. She spent eight 
weeks there, and enjoyed the mountain air and 
scenery with something of her old delight. She 
was able to walk a mile or more, and took a solitary 
walk in the morning, which she greatly enjoyed. 
Her evening walk was less agreeable, because she 
was then exposed to the eager curiosity of sight- 
seers, who constantly pursued her. 

Miss Alcott had a great intellectual pleasure here 
in the society of Mr. James Murdock and his family. 
The distinguished elocutionist took great pains to 
gratify her taste for dramatic reading by selecting 
her favorite scenes for representation, and she even 
attended one of his public readings given in the 
hall of the hotel. The old pain in her limbs from 
which she suffered during her European journey 
again troubled her, and she returned to Dr. Law- 
rence's home in the autumn, where she was ten- 
derly cared for. 

Miss Alcott was still continually planning stories. 
Dr. Lawrence read to her a great deal, and the read- 
ing often suggested subjects to her. She thought of 
a series to be called " Stories of All Nations," and 
had already written " Trudel's Siege," which was 
published in " St. Nicholas," April, 1888, the scene 
of which was laid at the siege of Leyden. The 
English story was to be called " Madge Wildfire," 
and she had thought of plots for others. She could 
write very little, and kept herself occupied and 
amused with fancy work, making flowers and pen- 
wipers of various colors, in the form of pinks, to 
send to her friends. 

Last Years. 369 

On her last birthday Louisa received a great many 
flowers and pleasant remembrances, which touched 
her deeply, and she said, " I did not mean to cry 
to-day, but I can't help it, everybody is so good." 
She went in to see her father every few days, and 
was conscious that he was drawing toward the end. 

While riding with her friend, Louisa would tell 
her of the stones she had planned, one of which 
was to be called " The Philosopher's Wooing," 
referring to Thoreau. She also had a musical 
novel in her mind. She could not be idle, and 
having a respect for sewing, she busied herself 
with it, making garments for poor children, or help- 
ing the Doctor in her \vork. She insisted upon 
setting up a work-basket for the Doctor, amply 
supplied with necessary materials, and was pleased 
when she saw them used. A flannel garment for a 
poor child was the last work of her hands. Her 
health improved in February, especially in the 
comfort of her nights, as the baths she took 
brought her the long-desired sleep. " Nothing 
so good as sleep," she said. But a little too much 
excitement brought on violent headaches. 

During these months Miss Alcott wrote part of 
the " Garland for Girls," one of the most fanciful 
and pleasing of her books. These stories were sug- 
gested by the flowers sent to her by different 
friends, which she fully enjoyed. She rode a 
great deal, but did not see any one. 

Her friends were much encouraged ; and al- 
though they dared not expect full recovery, they 
hoped that she might be " a comfortable invalid, 
able to enjoy life, and give help and pleasure to 


Louisa May Alcott. 

others." She did not suffer great pain, but she 
was very weak ; her nervous system seemed to 
be utterly prostrated by the years of work and 
struggle through which she had passed. She said, 
" I don't want to live if I can't be of use." She 
had always met the thought of death bravely ; and 
even the separation from her dearest friends was 
serenely borne. She believed in their continued 
presence and influence, and felt that the parting 
was for a little time. She had no fear of God, and 
no doubt of the future. Her only sadness was in 
leaving the friends whom she loved and who might 
yet need her. 

A young man wrote asking Miss Alcott if she 
would advise him to devote himself to authorship ; 
she answered, " Not if you can do anything else. 
Even dig ditches." He followed her advice, and 
took a situation where he could support himself, 
but he still continued to write stories. A little 
boy sent twenty-five cents to buy her books. She 
returned the money, telling him it was not enough 
to buy books, but sent him " Little Men." Scores 
of letters remained unanswered for want of strength 
to write or even to read. 

Early in March Mr. Alcott failed very rapidly. 
Louisa drove in to see him, and was conscious that 
it was for the last time. Tempted by the warm 
spring-like day, she had made some change in 
her dress, and absorbed in the thought of the part- 
ing, when she got into the carriage she forgot to 
put on the warm fur cloak she had worn. 

The next morning she complained of violent 
pain in her head, amounting to agony. The physi- 

Last Years. 371 

clan who had attended her for the last weeks was 
called. He felt that the situation was very serious. 
She herself asked, " Is it not meningitis?' The 
trouble on the brain increased rapidly. She recog- 
nized her dear young nephew for a moment and 
her friendly hostess, but was unconscious of every- 
thing else. So, at 3.30 P. M., March 6, 1888, she 
passed quietly on to the rest which she so much 
needed. She did not know tbat her father had al- 
ready preceded her. 

The friends of the family who gathered to "pay 
their last tribute of respect and love to the aged 
father were met at the threshold by the startling 
intelligence, " Louisa Alcott is dead," and a deeper 
sadness fell upon every heart. The old patriarch 
had gone to his rest in the fulness of time, " corn 
ripe for the sickle," but few realized how entirely 
his daughter had worn out her earthly frame. Her 
friends had hoped for renewed health and strength, 
and for even greater and nobler work from her with 
her ripened powers and greater ease and leisure. 

Miss Alcott had made every arrangement for her 
death ; and by her own wish the funeral service was 
very simple, in her father's rooms at Louisburg 
Square, and attended only by a few of her family 
and nearest friends. They read her exquisite poem 
to her mother, her father's noble tribute to her, and 
spoke of the earnestness and truth of her life. She 
was remembered as she would have wished to be. 
Her body was carried to Concord and placed in 
the beautiful cemetery of Sleepy Hollow where 
her dearest ones were already laid to rest. " Her 
boys " went beside her as " a guard of honor," and 

372 Louisa May Alcott. 

stood around as she was placed across the feet of 
father, mother, and sister, that she might " take 
care of them as she had done all her life." 

Of the silent grief of the bereaved family I will 
not speak, but the sound of mourning filled all the 
land, and was re-echoed from foreign shores. The 
children everywhere had lost their friend. Miss 
Alcott had entered into their hearts and revealed 
them to themselves. In her childish journal her 
oldest sister said, " I have not a secret from Louisa; 
I tell her everything, and am not afraid she will 
think me silly." It was this respect for the thought 
and life of children that gave Louisa Alcott her 
great power of winning their respect and affection. 
Nothing which was real and earnest to them seemed 


unimportant to her. 


To Mr. Niles. 

SUNDAY, 1886. 

DEAR MR. NILES, The goodly supply of books was 
most welcome ; for when my two hours pen- work are over 
I need something to comfort me, and I long to go on 
and finish "Jo's Boys " by July ist. 

My doctor frowns on that hope, and is so sure it will 
do mischief to get up the steam that I am afraid to try, 
and keep Prudence sitting on the valve lest the old en- 
gine run away and have another smash-up. 

I send you by Fred several chapters, I wish they were 
neater, as some were written long ago and have knocked 

Last Years. 373 

about for years ; but I can't spare time to copy, so hope 
the printers won't be in despair. 

I planned twenty chapters and am on the fifteenth. 
Some are long, some short, and as we are pressed for 
time we had better not try to do too much. 

... I have little doubt it will be done early in July, 
but things are so contrary with me I can never be sure of 
carrying out a plan, and I don't want to fail again ; so far 
I feel as if I could, without harm, finish off these dreadful 

Why have any illustrations? The book is not a child's 
book, as the lads are nearly all over twenty, and pretty 
pictures are not needed. Have the bas-relief if you like, 
or one good thing for frontispiece. 

I can have twenty-one chapters and make it the size 
of " Little Men." Sixteen chapters make two hundred 
and sixteen pages, and I may add a page here and there 
later, or if need be, a chapter somewhere to fill up. 

I shall be at home in a week or two, much better for 
the rest and fine air ; and during my quiet days in C. 
I can touch up proofs and confer about the book. Sha'n't 
we be glad when it is done ? 

Yours truly, 

L. M. A. 

To Mrs. Dodge. 

JUNE 29. 

DEAR MRS. DODGE, I will evolve something for De- 
cember (D. V.) and let you have it as soon as it is done. 

Lu and I go to Nonquit next week ; and after a few 
days of rest, I will fire up the old engine and see if it will 
run a short distance without a break-down. 

There are usually about forty young people at N., and 
I think I can get a hint from some of them. 

3/4 Louisa May Alcott. 

Had a call from Mr. Burroughs and Mr. Gilder last 
eve. Mr. G. asked if you were in B., but I did n't 

Father remains comfortable and happy among his 
books. Our lads are making their first visit to New York, 
and may call on "St. Nick," whom they have made their 
patron saint. 

I should like to own the last two bound volumes of 
"St. Nicholas," for Lulu. She adores the others, and 
they are nearly worn out with her loving but careless 
luggings up and down for " more towries, Aunt Wee- wee." 
Charge to 

Yours affectionately, 

L. M. A. 

P. S. Was n't I glad to see you in my howling wil- 
derness of wearisome domestic worrits ! Come again. 

CONCORD, August 15. 

DEAR MRS. DODGE, I like the idea of " Spinning- 
Wheel Stories," and can do several for a series which 
can come out in a book later. Old-time tales, with a 
thread running through all from the wheel that enters in 
the first one. 

A Christmas party of children might be at an old 
farm-house and hunt up the wheel, and grandma spins and 
tells the first story ; and being snow-bound, others amuse 
the young folks each evening with more tales. Would 
that do? The mother and child picture would come in 
nicely for the first tale, " Grandma and her Mother." 

Being at home and quiet for a week or so (as Father 
is nicely and has a capable nurse), I have begun the 
serial, and done two chapters ; but the spinning-tales 
come tumbling into my mind so fast I 'd better pin a 
few while " genius burns." Perhaps you would like to 

Last Years. 375 

start the set Christmas. The picture being ready and 
the first story can be done in a week, " Sophie's Secret ' 
can come later. Let me know if you would like that, 
and about how many pages of the paper " S. S." was 
written on you think would make the required length of 
tale (or tail?). If you don't want No. i yet, I will take 
my time and do several. 

The serial was to be " Mrs. Gay's Summer School," 
and have some city girls and boys go to an old farm- 
house, and for fun dress and live as in old times, and 
learn the good, thrifty old ways, with adventures and fun 
thrown in. That might come in the spring, as it takes 
me longer to grind out yarns now than of old. 

Glad you are better. Thanks for kind wishes for the 
little house ; come and see it, and gladden the eyes of 
forty young admirers by a sight of M. M. D. next year. 

Yours affectionately, 

L. M. A. 


DEAR MRS. DODGE, A little cousin, thirteen years 
old, has written a story and longs to see it in print. It is 
a well-written bit and pretty good for a beginner, so I 
send it to you hoping it may find a place in the children's 
corner. She is a grandchild of S. J. May, and a bright 
lass who paints nicely and is a domestic little person in 
spite of her budding accomplishments. Good luck to 

I hoped to have had a Christmas story for some one, 
but am forbidden to write for six months, after a bad turn 
of vertigo. So I give it up and take warning. All good 
wishes for the New Year. 

From yours affectionately, 


376 Louisa May Alcott. 

To Mr. Niles. 


DEAR MR. NILES, Sorry you don't like the bas-relief 
[of herself] ; I do. A portrait, if bright and comely, 
would n't be me, and if like me would disappoint the 
children ; so we had better let them imagine " Aunt Jo 
young and beautiful, with her hair in two tails down her 
back," as the little girl said. 

In haste, L. M. A. 

To Mrs. Bond. 

CONCORD, Tuesday, 1886. 

DEAR AUNTIE, I want to find Auntie Gwinn, and 
don 't know whom to ask but you, as your big motherly 
heart yearns over all the poor babies, and can tell them 
where to go when the nest is bare. A poor little woman 
has just died, leaving four children to a drunken father. 
Two hard-working aunts do all they can, and one will 
take the oldest girl. We want to put the two small girls 
and boy into a home till we can see what comes next. 
Lulu clothes one, and we may be able to put one with a 
cousin. But since the mother died last Wednesday they 
are very forlorn, and must be helped. If we were not 
so full I'd take one ; but Lu is all we can manage 

There is a home at Auburndale, but it is full ; and I 
know of no other but good Auntie Gwinn's. What is her 
address, please? I shall be in town on Saturday, and 
can go and see her if I know where. 

Don't let it be a bother ; but one turns at once in such 
cases to the saints for direction, and the poor aunts don't 
known what to do ; so this aunt comes to the auntie 
of all. 

Last Years. 377 

I had a pleasant chat with the Papa in the cars, and 
was very glad to hear that W. is better. My love to 
both and S. 

Thanks for the news of portraits. I '11 bear them in 
mind if G. H. calls. Lulu and Anna send love, and I 

am as always, 


To Mrs. Dodge. 

APRIL 13, 1886. 

DEAR MRS. DODGE, I am glad you are going to have 
such a fine outing. May it be a very happy one. 

I cannot promise anything, but hope to be allowed to 
write a little, as my doctor has decided that it is as well 
to let me put on paper the tales " knocking at the sauce- 
pan lid and demanding to be taken out ' (like Mrs. 
Cratchit's potatoes), as to have them go on worrying me 
inside. So I'm scribbling at "Jo's Boys," long prom- 
ised to Mr. Niles and clamored for by the children. I 
may write but one hour a day, so cannot get on very fast ; 
but if it is ever done, I can think of a serial for " St. 
Nicholas." I began one, and can easily start it for '88, 
if head and hand allow. I will simmer on it this summer, 
and see if it can be done. Hope so, for I don't want to 
give up work so soon. 

I have read " Mrs. Null," but don't like it very 
well, too slow and colorless after Tolstoi's " Anna 

I met Mr. and Mrs. S. at Mrs. A.'s this winter. Mr. 
Stockton's child-stories I like very much. The older 
ones are odd but artificial. 

Now, good-by, and God be with you, dear woman, and 
bring you safely home to us all. 

Affectionately yours, L. M. ALCOTT. 

378 Louisa May Alcott. 

To Mrs. Bond. 

DEAR AUNTIE, I have been hoping to get out and 
see you all winter, but have been so ill I could only live 
on hope as a relish to my gruel, that being my only 
food, and not of a nature to give me strength. Now I 
am beginning to live a little, and feel less like a sick 
oyster at low tide. The spring days will set me up I 
trust, and my first pilgrimage shall be to you ; for I want 
you to see how prettily my May-flower is blossoming into 
a fine off-shoot of the old plant. 

Lizzy Wells has probably told you our news of Fred 
and his little bride, and Anna written you about it as 
only a proud mamma can. 

Father is very comfortable, but says sadly as he looks 
up from his paper, " Beecher has gone now ; all go but 
me." Please thank Mr. Bond for the poems, which are 
interesting, even to a poor, ignorant worm who does 
not know Latin. Mother would have enjoyed them 
very much. I should have acknowledged his kindness 
sooner; but as I am here in Roxbury my letters are 
forwarded, and often delayed. 

I was sorry to hear that you were poorly again. Is n't 
it hard to sit serenely in one's soul when one's body is in 
a dilapidated state ? I find it a great bore, but try to do 
it patiently, and hope to see the why by and by, when 
this mysterious life is made clear to me. I had a lovely 
dream about that, and want to tell it you some day. 

Love to all. 

Ever yours, L. M. A. 

Her publisher wished to issue a new edition 
of " A Modern Mephistopheles," and to add to it 

Last Years. 379 

her story " A Whisper in the Dark," to which she 

MAY 6, 1887. 

DEAR MR. NILES. This is about what I want to say. 
You may be able to amend or suggest something. I only 
want it understood that the highfalutin style was for a 
disguise, though the story had another purpose ; for I 'm 
not ashamed of it, and like it better than " Work " or 
" Moods." 

Yours in haste, L. M. A. 

P. S. Do you want more fairy tales ? 


" A Modern Mephistopheles " was written among the 
earlier volumes of the No Name Series, when the chief 
idea of the authors was to puzzle their readers by dis- 
guising their style as much as possible, that they might 
enjoy the guessing and criticism as each novel appeared. 
This book was very successful in preserving its incognito ; 
and many persons still insist that it could not have been 
written by the author of " Little Women." As I much en- 
joyed trying to embody a shadow of my favorite poem in 
a story, as well as the amusement it has afforded those in 
the secret for some vears, it is considered well to add 


this volume to the few romances which are offered, not 
as finished work by any means, but merely attempts 
at something graver than magazine stories or juvenile 



SATURDAY A. M., May 7, 1887. 

DEAR MR. NILES, Yours just come. "A Whisper' 1 
is rather a lurid tale, but might do if I add a few lines to 

Fac-simile cf Preface to " A Modern 

"=> - 0<2, 

***r \_w" 

Fac-simile of Preface. 


-SL,, 3X. 

382 Louisa May Alcott. 

the preface of " Modern Mephistopheles," saying that 
this is put in to fill the volume, or to give a sample of 
Jo March's necessity stories, which many girls have asked 
for. Would that do ? 

It seems to me that it would be better to wait till I 
can add a new novel, and then get out the set. Mean- 
time let " Modem Mephistopheles ' ;i go alone, with my 
name, as a summer book before Irving comes [Irving as 
Faust] . 

I hope to do " A Tragedy of To-day " this summer, 
and it can come out in the fall or next spring, with 
" Modern Mephistopheles," " Work," and " Moods." 

A spunky new one would make the old ones go. 
" Hospital Sketches" is not cared for now, and is filled 
up with other tales you know. . . . 

Can that plan be carried out? I have begun my 
tragedy, and think it will be good ; also a shorter thing 
called " Anna : An Episode," in which I do up Boston 
in a jolly way, with a nice little surprise at the end. It 
would do to fill up " Modern Mephistopheles," as it is 
not long, unless I want it to be. 

I will come in next week and see what can be 
done. Yours truly, 

L. M. A. 

To Mrs. Bond. 

SUNDAY, Oct. 16, [1887]. 

DEAR AUNTIE, As you and I belong to the " Shut- in 
Society," we may now and then cheer each other by a 
line. Your note and verse are very good to me to-day, 
as I sit trying to feel all right in spite of the stiffness that 
won't walk, the rebel stomach that won't work, and the 
tired head that won't rest. 

My verse lately has been from the little poem found 
under a good soldier's pillow in the hospital. 

Last Years. 383 

I am no longer eager, bold, and strong, 

All that is past ; 
I am ready not to do 

At last at last. 
My half-day's work is done, 

And this is all my part. 
I give a patient God 

My patient heart. 

The learning not to do is so hard after being the hub 
to the family wheel so long. But it is good for the ener- 
getic ones to find that the world can get on without them, 
and to learn to be still, to give up, and wait cheerfully. 

As we have " fell into poetry," as Silas Wegg says, I add 
a bit of my own j for since you are Marmee now, I feel 
that you won't laugh at my poor attempts any more than 
she did, even when I burst forth at the ripe age of eight. 

Love to all the dear people, and light to the kind eyes 
that have made sunshine for others so many years. 

Always your Lu. 

To Mrs. Bond, with first copy of " Lulu s Library" 

second volume. 

OCTOBER, 1887. 

DEAR AUNTIE, I always gave Mother the first author's 
copy of a new book. As her representative on earth, 
may I send you, with my love, the little book to come 
out in November? 

The tales were told at sixteen to May and her play- 
mates ; then are related to May's daughter at five ; and 
for the sake of these two you may care to have them for 
the little people. 

I am still held by the leg, but seem to gain a little, 
and hope to be up by and by. Slow work, but part of 

384 Louisa May Alcott. 

the discipline I need, doubtless ; so I take it as well as 
I can. 

You and I won't be able to go to the golden wedding 
of S. J. May. I have been alone so long I feel as if I 'd 
like to see any one, and be in the good times again. 
L. W. reports you as " nicely, and sweet as an angel ; ' 
so I rejoice, and wish I could say the same of 

Your loving Lu. 

To Mrs. Dodge. 

DECEMBER 22, 1887. 

DEAR MRS. DODGE, I send you the story your assist- 
ant editor asked for. As it is needed at once I do not 
delay to copy it, for I can only write an hour a day and 
do very little. You are used to my wild manuscript, and 
will be able to read it. I meant to have sent the Chinese 
tale, but this was nearly done, and so it goes, as it does 
not matter where we begin. ... I hope you are well, 
and full of the peace which work well done gives the 
happy doer. 

I mend slowly, but surely, and my good Doctor says 
my best work is yet to come ; so I will be content with 
health if I can get it. With all good wishes, 

Yours affectionately, L. M. A. 

To Mrs. Bond. 

FEBRUARY 7 [1888]. 

DEAR AUNTIE, My blessed Anna is so busy, and I 
can do so little to help her, I feel as if I might take upon 
me the pleasant duty of writing to you. 

Father is better, and we are all so grateful, for just 
now we want all to be bright for our boy. 

Last Years. 385 

The end is not far off, but Father rallies wonderfully 
from each feeble spell, and keeps serene and happy 
through everything. 

I don't ask to keep him now that life is a burden, and 
am glad to have him go before it becomes a pain. We 
shall miss the dear old white head and the feeble saint so 
long our care ; but as Anna says, " He will be with 
Mother." So we shall be happy in the hope of that 

Sunday he seemed very low, and I was allowed to 
drive in and say "good-by." He knew me and smiled, 
and kissed "Weedy," as he calls me, and I thought the 
drowsiness and difficulty of breathing could not last long. 
But he revived, got up, and seemed so much as usual, I 
may be able to see him again. It is a great grief that 
I am not there as I was with Lizzie and Mother, but 
though much better, the shattered nerves won't bear 
much yet, and quiet is my only cure. 

I sit alone and bless the little pair like a fond old 
grandmother. You show me how to do it. With love 
to all, 

Yours ever, Lu. 

Her last note. To Mrs. Bond. 

FEBRUARY 8, 1888. 
Air, " Haste to the Wedding." 

DEAR AUNTIE, - - 1 little knew what a sweet surprise 
was in store for me when I wrote to you yesterday. 

As I awoke this morning my good Doctor L. came 
in with the lovely azalea, her round face beaming through 
the leaves like a full moon. 

It was very dear of you to remember me, and cheer 
up my lonely day with such a beautiful guest. 

2 5 

386 Louisa May Alcott. 

It stands beside me on Marmee's work-table, and re- 
minds me tenderly of her favorite flowers ; and among 
those used at her funeral was a spray of this, which lasted 
for two weeks afterward, opening bud after bud in the 
glass on her table, where lay the dear old "Jos. May" 
hymn book, and her diary with the pen shut in as she left 
it when she last wrote there, three days before the end, 
"The twilight is closing about me, and I am going to 
rest in the arms of my children." 

So you see I love the delicate flower, and enjoy it very 

I can write now, and soon hope to come out and see 
you for a few minutes, as I drive out every fine day, and 
go to kiss my people once a week for fifteen minutes. 

Slow climbing, but I don't slip back ; so think up my 
mercies, and sing cheerfully, as dear Marmee used to do, 
" Thus far the Lord has led me on ! ' 

Your loving Lu. 




DEAR Pilgrim, waiting patiently, 

The long, long journey nearly done, 
Beside the sacred stream that flows 

Clear shining in the western sun; 
Look backward on the varied road 

Your steadfast feet have trod, 
From youth to age, through weal and woe, 

Climbing forever nearer God. 

Mountain and valley lie behind ; 

The slough is crossed, the wicket passed; 
Doubt and despair, sorrow and sin, 

Giant and fiend, conquered at last. 
Neglect is changed to honor now ; 

The heavy cross may be laid down ; 
The white head wins and wears at length 

The prophet's, not the martyr's, crown. 

Greatheart and Faithful gone before, 

Brave Christiana, Mercy sweet, 
Are Shining Ones who stand and wait 

The weary wanderer to greet. 
Patience and Love his handmaids are, 

And till time brings release, 
Christian may rest in that bright room 

Whose windows open to the east. 

The staff set by, the sandals off, 

Still pondering the precious scroll, 
Serene and strong, he waits the call 

That frees and wings a happy soul. 
Then, beautiful as when it lured 

The boy's aspiring eyes, 
Before the pilgrim's longing sight 

Shall the Celestial City rise. 
November 29, 1885. L. M. A. 

388 Louisa May Alcott. 

MISS ALCOTT'S appearance was striking 
and impressive rather than beautiful. Her 
figure was tall and well-proportioned, indicating 
strength and activity, and she walked with free- 
dom and majesty. Her head was large, and her 
rich brown hair was long and luxuriant, giving a 
sense of fulness and richness of life to her massive 
features. While thoroughly unconventional, and 
even free and easy in her manner, she had a dig- 
nity of deportment which prevented undue lib- 
erties, and made intruders stand in awe of her. 
Generous in the extreme in serving others, she 
knew her own rights, and did not allow them to 
be trampled on. She repelled " the spurns that 
patient merit of the unworthy takes," and had 
much of the Burns spirit that sings " A man 's 
a man for a' that" in the presence of insolent 

Miss Alcott always took her stand not for herself, 
but for her family, her class, her sex. The humblest 
writer should not be imposed upon in her person; 
every woman should be braver and stronger from 
her attitude. She was careless of outward distinc- 
tions ; but she enjoyed the attentions which her 
fame brought her with simple pleasure, and was 
delighted to meet bright, intelligent, distinguished 
people, who added to her stores of observation and 
thought. She had the rare good fortune, which an 
heir of millions might envy, of living all her life in 
the society of the noblest men and women. The 
Emersons, the Thoreaus, the Hawthornes, and Miss 
Elizabeth Peabody were the constant companions 
of her childhood and youth. It was from them 

Conclusion. 389 

that her standard of character was formed, and she 
could never enter any circle higher than that in 
which she had breathed freely from a child. She 
was quite capable of hero-worship, but her heroes 
were few. 

With all her imagination and romance, Miss 
Alcott was a tremendous destroyer of illusions; 
she remorselessly tore them away from herself, 
persisting in holding a lens before every fault and 
folly of her own, and she did the same for those 
she loved best. Only what was intrinsically noble 
and true could stand the searching test of her 
intellectual scrutiny and keen perception of the 
incongruous and ridiculous. 

This disposition was apparent in Louisa's rela- 
tion to her father, whom she did not always fully 
understand. Perhaps he had a perception of this 
when he wrote 

t . 

L 11C VV1 ULC ~ 

I press thee to my heart, as Duty's faithful child." 

l-^ *- f-\ \ t 4- 4- I X"V 1*^ -W T -V% *-V *~% 4- K^ " T ^ ^ T < 4- l-^ l^ 1 /- O *~V S*l f* 4* I^*4-T /"* + *~\ *" 

She had little sympathy with his speculative fancy, 
and saw plainly the impracticability of his schemes, 
and did not hesitate to touch with light and kindly 
satire his little peculiarities ; yet in her deepest 
heart she gave him not only affection, but deep 
reverence. She felt the nobility and grandeur of 
his mind and heart. In " Little Women " the por- 
trait of the father is less vivid and less literal than 
that of any other member of the family, and is 
scarcely recognizable ; but it was impossible to 
make the student and idealist a part of the family 
life as she painted it, full of fun, frolic, and ad- 
venture. In the second part she has taken pains 

3QO Louisa May Alcott. 

to make up for this seeming neglect, and pays hom- 
age to the quiet man at the end of the house, 
whose influence was so potent and so sweet over 
all within it. 

Mrs. Alcott was a rich and noble nature, full of 
zeal and impulse, daily struggling with a temper 
threatening to burst out into fire, ready to fight 
like a lioness for her young, or to toil for them till 
Nature broke down under the burden. She had 
a rich appreciation of heroism and beauty in all 
noble living, a true love of literature, and an over- 
flowing sympathy with all suffering humanity, but 
was also capable of righteous indignation and with- 
ering contempt. To this mother, royal in her 
motherhood, Louisa was bound by the closest ties 
of filial love and mutual understanding. She early 
believed herself to be her mother's favorite child, 
knew she was close to her heart, her every struggle 
watched, her every fault rebuked, every aspiration 
encouraged, every effort after good recognized. I 
think Louisa felt no pride in this preference. She 
knew that she was dear to her mother, because 
her stormy, wayward heart was best understood by 
her ; and hence the mother, wiser for her child than 
for herself, watched her unfolding life with anxious 
care. Throughout the childish journal this relation 
is evident: the child's heart lies open to the mother, 
and the mother can help her because she under- 
stands her, and holds sacred every cry of her 

Such a loving relation to a mother so rich, so 
full, so enduring was the greatest possible bless- 
ing to her life. And richly did Louisa repay the 

Conclusion. 391 

care. From her earliest years she was her mother's 
confidante, friend, and comforter. Her dream of 
success was not of fame and glory, but of the time 
when she could bring this weary pilgrim into " that 
chamber whose name is Peace," and there bid her 
sit with folded hands, listening to the loving voices 
of her children, and drinking in the fulness of life 
without care or anxiety. 

And it all came true, like the conclusion of a 
fairy story ; for good fairies had been busy at 
work for many years preparing the way. Who 
that saw that mother resting from her labors, 
proud in her children's success, happy in her 
husband's contentment, and in the love that had 
never faltered in the darkest days, can ever forget 
the peace of her countenance, the loving joy of 
her heart ? 

The relation of Miss Alcott to her older sister 
was of entire trust and confidence. Anna inher- 
ited the serene, unexacting temper of her father, 
with much of the loving warmth of her mother. 
She loved to hide behind her gifted sister, and 
to keep the ingle-side warm for her to retreat to 
when she was cold and weary. Anna's fine intel- 
lectual powers were shown more in the appreci- 
ation of others than in the expression of herself; 
her dramatic skill and her lively fancy, combined 
with her affection for Louisa, made her always 
ready to second all the plans for entertainment or 
benevolence. She appears in her true light in the 
sweet, lovable Meg of "Little Women;' and if 
she never had the fame and pecuniary success of 
her sister, she had the less rare, but equally satis- 

392 Louisa May Alcott. 

fying, happiness of wifehood and motherhood. 
And thus she repaid to Louisa what she had so 
generously done for the family, by giving her new 
objects of affection, and connecting her with a 
younger generation. 

Louisa was always very fond of boys, and the 
difference of nature gave her an insight into their 
trials and difficulties without giving her a painful 
sense of her own hard struggles. In her nephews 
she found objects for all her wise and tender care, 
which they repaid with devoted affection. When 
boys became men, " they were less interesting to 
her; she could not understand them." 

Elizabeth was unlike the other sisters. Retiring 
in disposition, she would gladly have ever lived in 
the privacy of home, her only desire being for 
the music that she loved. The father's ideality 
was in her a tender religious feeling ; the mother's 
passionate impulse, a self-abnegating affection. 
She was in the family circle what she is in the 
book, a strain of sweet, sad music we long and 
love to hear, and yet which almost breaks the 
heart with its forecasting of separation. She was 
very dear to both the father and mother, and the 
picture of the father watching all night by the 
marble remains of his child is very touching. He 
might well say, 

"Ah, me ! life is not life deprived of thee." 

Of the youngest of all, bright, sparkling, capri- 
cious May,- -quick in temper, quick in repentance, 
affectionate and generous, but full of her own plans, 
and quite inclined to have the world go on accord- 

Conclusion. 393 

ing to her fancies, I have spoken elsewhere. 
Less profound in her intellectual and religious 
nature than either of her sisters, she was like a 
nymph of Nature, full of friendly sportiveness, and 
disposed to live out her ow r n life, since it might 
be only a brief summer day. She was Anna's 
special child, and Louisa was not always so patient 
with her as the older sister; yet how well Louisa 
understood her generous nature is shown by the 
beautiful sketch she has made of her in " Little 
Women." She was called the lucky one of the 
family, and she reaped the benefit of her generous 
sister's labors in her opportunities of education. 

Miss Alcott's literary work is so closely inter- 
woven with her personal life that it needs little 
separate mention. Literature was undoubtedly her 
true pursuit, and she loved and honored it. That 
she had her ambitious longings for higher forms 
of art than the pleasant stories for children is evi- 
dent from her journals, and she twice attempted 
to paint the life of mature men and women strug- 
gling with great difficulties. In "Moods' and 
" A Modern Mephistopheles ' we have proof of 
her interest in difficult subjects. I have spoken 
of them in connection with her life ; but while 
they evince great power, and if standing alone 
would have stamped her as an author of original 
observation and keen thought, they can hardly be 
considered as thoroughly successful, and certainly 
have not won the sanction of the public like " Hos- 
pital Sketches " and " Little Women." Could she 
ever have commanded quiet leisure, with a toler- 
able degree of health, she might have wrought her 

394 Louisa May Alcott. 

fancies into a finer fabric, and achieved the success 
she aimed at. 

Much as Miss Alcott loved literature, it was not 
an end in itself to her, but a means. Her heart was 
so bound up in her family, she felt it so fully to 
be her sacred mission to provide for their wants, 
-that she sacrificed to it all ambitious dreams, 
health, leisure, everything but her integrity of 
soul. But as " he that loseth his life shall find it," 
she has undoubtedly achieved a really greater work 
than if she had not had this constant stimulus to 
exertion. In her own line of work she is unsur- 
passed. While she paints in broad, free strokes 
the life of her own day, represented mostly by 
children and young people, she has always a 
high moral purpose, which gives strength and 
sweetness to the delineation ; yet one never hears 
children complain of her moralizing, it is events 
that reveal the lesson she would enforce. Her 
own deep nature shines through all the expe- 
riences of her characters, and impresses upon 
the children's hearts a sense of reality and truth. 
She charms them, wisely, to love the common 
virtues of truth, unselfishness, kindness, industry, 
and honesty. Dr. Johnson said children did not 
want to hear about themselves, but about giants 
and fairies ; but while Miss Alcott could weave 
fairy fancies for them, they are quite as pleased 
with her real boys and girls in the plainest of 

An especial merit of these books for young boys 
and girls is their purity of feeling. The family 
affection which was so predominant in the author's 

Conclusion. 395 

own life, always appears as the holiest and sweetest 
phase of human nature. She does not refuse to 
paint the innocent love and the happy marriage 
which it is natural for every young heart to be in- 
terested in, but it is in tender, modest colors. She 
does not make it the master. and tyrant of the soul, 
nor does she ever connect it with sensual imagery ; 
but it appears as one of 4< God's holy ordinances," 

- natural and beautiful, and is not separated 
from the thought of work and duty and self- 
sacrifice for others. No mother fears that her 
books will brush the bloom of modesty from the 
faces of her young men or maidens. 

Even in the stories of her early period of work 
for money, which she wisely renounced as trash, 
while there is much that is thoroughly worthless as 
art, and little that has any value, Miss Alcott never 
falls into grossness of thought or baseness of feeling. 
She is sentimental, melodramatic, exaggerated, and 
unreal in her descriptions, but the stories leave no 
taint of evil behind them. Two of these stories, 
"The Baron's Gloves' and "A Whisper in the 
Dark," have been included in her published works, 
with her permission. Her friends are disposed to 
regret this, as they do not add to her reputation ; 
but at least they serve to show the quality of work 
which she condemned so severely, and to satisfy 
the curiosity of readers in regard to it. It would 
be easy to point out defects in her style, and in 
some of her books there is evidence of the enforced 
drudgery of production, instead of the spontaneous 
flow of thought. The most serious defect is in 
her style of expression, which certainly passes the 

396 Louisa May Alcott. 

fine line between colloquial ease and slangy it 
is her own natural, peculiar style, which appears 
in her journals and letters. That it is attractive to 
children is certain, but it offends the taste of those 
who love purity and elegance of speech. It does 
not appear in Louisa's more ambitious novels ; here 
she sometimes falls into the opposite extreme of 
labored and stilted expression. But much of these 
books is written in a pure and beautiful style, show- 
ing that she could have united ease with elegance 
if she had not so constantly worked at high speed 
and with little revision. She was a great admirer 
of Dickens's writings ; and although she has never 
imitated him, she was perhaps strengthened in 
her habit of using dashing, expressive language by 
so fascinating a model. 

I have placed at the head of each chapter one 
of Miss Alcott's own poems, usually written at the 
period of which the chapter treats, and characteristic 
of her life at that time. Her first literary essay was 
the " Little Robin." But although her fond mother 
saw the future of a great poet in these simple verses, 
Louisa never claimed the title for herself. Her 
thoughts ran often into rhyme, and she sent many 
birthday and Christmas verses to her friends and 
especially to her father. They are usually playful. 
She always wrote to express some feeling of the 
hour, and I find no objective or descriptive poetry. 
But a few of her sacred poems, for we may cer- 
tainly call them so, are very tender and beautiful, 
and deserve a permanent place among the poems 
of feeling, those few poems which a true heart 
writes for itself. "Thoreau's Flute" was originally 

Conclusion. 397 

published in the " Atlantic Monthly." It is the 
least personal of her poems. The lines to her 
father on his eighty-sixth birthday, the verses 
dedicated to her mother, and " My Prayer," the 
last poem that she wrote, breathe her deepest 
religious feeling in sweet and fitting strains. They 
will speak to the hearts of many in the hours 
of trial which are common to humanity. The 
long playful poem called " The Lay of the Golden 
Goose " was sent home from Europe as an an- 
swer to many questions from her admirers and 
demands for new stories. It has never been pub- 
lished, and is an interesting specimen of her playful 

While to Miss Alcott cannot be accorded a high 
rank as a poet, which, indeed, she never claimed 
for herself,- -it would be hard to deny a place in 
our most select anthology to "Thoreau's Flute" or 
" Transfiguration," the "Lines to my Father on his 
Eighty-sixth Birthday" and " My Prayer." I have 
therefore thought it well to preserve her best poems 
in connection with her life, where they properly 
belong ; for they are all truly autobiographical, re- 
vealing the inner meaning of her life. 

The pecuniary success of Miss Alcott's books 
enabled her to carry out her great purpose of pro- 
viding for the comfort and happiness of her family. 
After the publication of " Little Women," she not 
only received a handsome sum for every new story, 
but there was a steady income from the old ones. 
Her American publishers estimate that they " have 
sold of her various works a million volumes, and 
that she realized from them more than two hun- 

398 Louisa May Alcott. 

dred thousand dollars." While her own tastes 
were very simple, her expenses were large, for she 
longed to gratify every wish of those she loved, and 
she gave generously to every one in need. She 
had a true sense of the value of money. Her early 
poverty did not make her close in expending it, 
nor her later success lavish. She never was en- 
slaved by debt or corrupted by wealth. She al- 
ways held herself superior to her fortune, and 
made her means serve her highest purposes. 
Of Miss Alcott's own reading she says : 

" Never a student, but a great reader. R. W. E. 
gave me Goethe's works at fifteen, and they have been 
my delight ever since. My library consists of Goethe, 
Emerson, Shakespeare, Carlyle, Margaret Fuller, and 
George Sand. George Eliot I don't care for, nor any of 
the modern poets but Whittier ; the old ones Her- 
bert, Crashaw, Keats, Coleridge, Dante, and a few oth- 
ers I like." 

She gives this account of the beginning of her 
literary career : 

" This gem [' The Robin '] my proud mother preserved 
with care, assuring me that if I kept on in this way I 
might be a second Shakespeare in time. Fired with this 
modest ambition, I continued to write poems upon dead 
butterflies, lost kittens, the baby's eyes, and other simple 
subjects till the story-telling mania set in ; and after 
frightening my sisters out of their wits by awful tales 
whispered in bed, I began to write down these histories 
of giants, ogres, dauntless girls, and magic transformations 
till we had a library of small paper-covered volumes illus- 
trated by the author. Later the poems grew gloomy and 

Conclusion. 399 

sentimental, and the tales more fanciful and less tragic, 
lovely elves and spirits taking the places of the former 

Of her method of work she says : 

" I never had a study. Any pen and paper do, and an 
old atlas on my knee is all I want. Carry a dozen plots 
in my head, and think them over when in the mood. 
Sometimes keep one for years, and suddenly find it all 
ready to write. Often lie awake and plan whole chapters 
word for word, then merely scribble them down as if 

" Used to sit fourteen hours a day at one time, eating 
little, and unable to stir till a certain amount was 

" Very few stories written in Concord ; no inspiration 
in that dull place. Go to Boston, hire a quiet room and 
shut myself up in it." 

The following letter gives her advice to young 
writers : 

To Mr. J. P. True. 

CONCORD, October 24. 

DEAR SIR, I never copy or " polish," so I have no 
old manuscripts to send you ; and if I had it would be of 
little use, for one person's method is no rule for another. 
Each must work in his own way ; and the only drill needed 
is to keep writing and profit by criticism. Mind gram- 
mar, spelling, and punctuation, use short words, and ex- 
press as briefly as you can your meaning. Young people 
use too many adjectives and try to " write fine." The 
strongest, simplest words are best, and no foreign ones 
if it can be helped. 

400 Louisa May Alcott. 

Write, and print if you can ; if not, still write, and im- 
prove as you go on. Read the best books, and they 
will improve your style. See and hear good speakers 
and wise people, and learn of them. Work for twenty 
years, and then you may some day find that you have a 
style and place of your own, and can command good pay 
for the same things no one would take when you were 

I know little of poetry, as I never read modern attempts, 
but advise any young person to keep to prose, as only 
once in a century is there a true poet ; and verses are so 
easy to do that it is not much help to write them. I 
have so many letters like your own that I can say no 
more, but wish you success, and give you for a motto 
Michael Angelo's wise words : " Genius is infinite 

Your friend, L. M. ALCOTT. 

P. S. The lines you send are better than many I 
see ; but boys of nineteen cannot know much about 
hearts, and had better write of things they understand. 
Sentiment is apt to become sentimentality ; and sense is 
always safer, as well as better drill, for young fancies and 

Read Ralph Waldo Emerson, and see what good prose 
is, and some of the best poetry we have. I much prefer 
him to Longfellow. 

" Years afterward," says Mr. True, " when I had 
achieved some slight success, I once more wrote, 
thanking her for her advice ; and the following 
letter shows the kindliness of heart with which she 
extended ready recognition and encouragement 
to lesser workers in her chosen field:" 

Conclusion. 401 

CONCORD, Sept. 7, 1883. 

MY DEAR MR. TRUE, Thanks for the pretty book, 
which I read at once and with pleasure ; for I still enjoy 
boys' pranks as much as ever. 

I don't remember the advice I gave you, and should 
judge from this your first story that you did not need 
much. Your boys are real boys ; and the girls can run, 
which is a rare accomplishment nowadays I find. 
They are not sentimental either ; and that is a good ex- 
ample to set both your brother writers and the lasses who 
read the book. 

I heartily wish you success in your chosen work, and 
shall always be glad to know how fast and how far you 
climb on the steep road that leads to fame and fortune. 

Yours truly, 


Roberts Brothers, Miss Alcott's publishers for 
nearly twenty years, have collected all her stories 
in a uniform edition of twenty- five volumes. They 
are grouped into different series according to size 
and character, from her novels to " Lulu's Library ' 
for very small children, and may be enumerated as 
follows : 

Novels (four volumes) . Work, Moods, A Modern 
Mephistopheles, Hospital Sketches. 

Little Women Series (eight volumes). Little Women, 
An Old-Fashioned Girl, Little Men, Eight Cousins, Rose 
in Bloom, Under the Lilacs, Jack and Jill, Jo's Boys. 

Spinning- Wheel Stories Series (four volumes) . Silver 
Pitchers, Proverb Stories, Spinning- Wheel Stories, A Gar- 
land for Girls. 

Aunt Jo's Scrap-Bag (six volumes) . My Boys, Shawl- 


402 Louisa May Alcott. 

Straps, Cupid and Chow-Chow, My Girls, Jimmy's Cruise 
in the Pinafore, An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving. 
Lulu's Library (three volumes). 

Many of these stones were originally published 
in various magazines, the popular " St. Nicho- 
las," for which Miss Alcott wrote some of her best 
things in her later years, the " Youth's Compan- 
ion," and others. Her works have been repub- 
lished in England ; and through her English 
publishers, Messrs. Sampson Low and Company, 
of London, she has reaped the benefit of copyright 
there, and they have been translated into many 
languages. Her name is familiar and dear to the 
children of Europe, and they still read her books 
with the same eagerness as the children of her 
own land. 

This extract from a letter written by the trans- 
lator of Miss Alcott's books into Dutch will show 
how she is esteemed in Holland : 

" Miss Alcott was and is so much beloved here by her 
books, that you could scarce find a girl that had not read 
one or more of them. Last autumn I gave a translation of 
'Lulu's Library' that appeared in November, 1887; 
the year before, a collection of tales and Christmas stories 
that appeared under the name of ' Gandsbloempje ' 
('Dandelion'). Yesterday a young niece of mine was 
here, and said, ' Oh, Aunt, how I enjoyed those stories ! 
but the former of " Meh Meh " I still preferred.' A 
friend wrote : ' My children are confined to the sick- 
room, but find comfort in Alcott's "Under the Lilacs." ' 
Her fame here was chiefly caused by her ' Little Women ' 

Conclusion. 403 

and ' Little Women Wedded,' which in Dutch were called 
' Under Moedervleugels ' (' Under Mother's Wings ') 
and' Op Eigen Wieken ' ('With Their Own Wings'). 
Her ' Work ' was translated as ' De Hand van den 
Ploey' ('The Hand on the Plough')." 

How enduring the fame of Louisa M. Alcott will 
be, time only can show; but if to endear oneself 
to two generations of children, and to mould their 
minds by wise counsel in attractive form entitle 
an author to the lasting gratitude of her country, 
that praise and reward belong to LOUISA MAY 



It is time to be old, 

To take in sail : 

The god of bounds, 

Who sets to seas a shore, 

Came to me in his fatal rounds, 

And said, " No more ! 

No farther shoot 

Thy broad ambitious branches, and thy root; 

Fancy departs : no more invent, 

Contract thy firmament 

To compass of a tent. 

There 's not enough for this and that, 

Make thy option which of two; 

Economize the failing river, 

Not the less revere the Giver ; 

Leave the many, and hold the few. 

Timely wise, accept the terms ; 

Soften the fall with wary foot : 

A little while 

Still plan and smile, 

404 Louisa May Alcott. 

And, fault of novel germs, 
Mature the unfallen fruit." 

As the bird trims her to the gale, 

I trim myself to the storm of time ; 

I man the rudder, reef the sail, 

Obey the voice at eve obeyed at prime : 

Lowly faithful, banish fear, 

Right onward drive unharmed ; 

The port, well worth the cruise, is near, 

And every wave is charmed. 


University Press : John \V ilson and Son, Cambridge. 


Miss Alcolt is really a benefactor of households. H. H. 

Miss Alcott has a facility of entering into the lives and feelings of children 
that is conspicuously wanting in most writers who address them ; and to this 
cause, to the consciousness among her readers that they are hearing about 
people like themselves, instead of abstract qualities labelled with names, the 
popularity of her books is due. MRS. SARAH J. HALE. 

Dear Aunt Jo ! You are embalmed in the thoughts and loves of thou- 
sands of little men and -women. EXCHANGE. 

Little Women ; or Meg, Jo, 
Beth, and Amy. With illustra- 
tions. i6mo 

Hospital Sketches, and Camp 
and Fireside Stories. With 
illustrations. i6mo 

An Old-Fashioned Girl. With 
illustrations. i6mo 

Little Men: Life at Plumfield with 
Jo's Boys. With illustrations. i6mo 

Jo's Boys and How they Turned 
Out. A sequel to l> Little Men." 
With portrait of "Aunt Jo." i6mo 

Eight Cousins ; or, The Aunt-Hill. 
With illustrations. i6mo . 

Rose in Bloom. A sequel to 
" Eight Cousins." i6mo . . . 

Under the Lilacs. With illustra- 
tions. i6mo 

Jack and Jill. A Village Story. 
With illustrations. i6mo . . . 

Work : A Story of Experience. 
With character illustrations by Sol 
Eytinge. i6mo 

Moods. A Novel. New edition, 
revised and enlarged. i6mo . 

A Modern Mephistopheles, and 
A Whisper in the Dark. i6mo 

Silver Pitchers, and Indepen- 
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Proverb Stories. New edition, re- 
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Spinning-Wheel Stories. With 
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A Garland for Girls, and Other 
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My Boys, &c. First volume of 
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Shawl-Straps. Second volume of 

Aunt Jo's Scrap-Bag. i6mo. . i.oo 

Cupid and Chow-Chow, &c. 
Third volume of Aunt Jo's Scrap- 
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My Girls, &c. Fourth volume of 

Aunt Jo's Scrap-Bag. i6mo . . i.oo 

Jimmy's Cruise in the Pinafore, 
&c. Fifth volume of Aunt Jo's 
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Little Women. Illustrated. Em- 
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designs drawn expressly for this 
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Classic. One small quarto, bound 
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Little Women Series. Compris- 
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Eight Cousins ; Under the Lilacs ; 
An Old-Fashioned Girl ; Jo's 
Boys ; Rose in Bloom ; Jack and 
Jill. 8 large i6mo volumes in a 
handsome box 12.00 

Miss Alcott's novels in uniform bind- 
ing in sets. Moods ; Work Hos- 
pital Sketches ; A Modern Mephis- 
topheles, and A Whisper in the 
Dark. 4 volumes. i6mo . . 6.00 

Lulu's Library. Vols. I., II., 
III. A collection of New Stories. 
i6mo i.oo 

These books are for sale at all bookstores, or will be mailed, post-paid, on 
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Boston, Mas*. 


' Sing, Tessa ; sing ! '-' cried Tommo, twanging away with all his might. PAGE 47. 

AUNT JO'S SCRAP-BAG: Containing "My Boys,' 
Shawl-Straps," Cupid and Chow-Chow," " My Girls," " Jimmy'-. 
Cruise in the Pinafore," " An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving." 6 vols. 
Price of each, $1.00. 





SILVER PITCHERS, and Other Stories. 



A GARLAND FOR GIRLS, and Other Stories, 

4 volumes. Cloth. Price, $1.25 each. 






With Illustrations by JESSIE MCDERMOTT. 
I6mo. Cloth. Price, $1.00 per volume. 






WORK. A Story of Experience. With Illustrations by 

This story relates, in many of its most important features and 
incidents, to actual experiences of its author; and in "Christie" 
we find the views and ideas of Miss Alcott herself expressed in 
such a way as to make them most interesting and valuable. 

MOODS. A Novel. 

Although this story was originally written at a time when its 
author's powers and years were far from fully matured, it was in 
its first form indicative of great power. It was revised and partly 
rewritten after she had attained a full maturity, and after actual 
experience with life had broadened and rounded out her mental 
vision, so that it now stands as the first-born and dearest to her 
heart of her novels. 


This story was written for the " No Name Series," in which it 
originally appeared, and consequently was intended to be disguised. 

It is a surprisa that Miss Alcott could have written this volume ; not that it is 
inferior, but that it varies from her usual tone and theme so much. Yet her plot 
is ingenious, and there is dramatic design well worked out. As we read, knowing 
now who the author is (the story was first published anonymously), we recognize 
the grace of her style and the art of her workmanship. Its tone and, above all, 
its lofty moral purpose are hers. Plots differ, appearances are changed ; but some 
of the deep traits of the true nature of Miss Alcott are in the book. Being dead 
she yet liveth. Public Opinion. 

HOSPITAL SKETCHES, and Camp and Fireside Stories. 

With Illustrations. 

These stories and sketches were written at the time of the Civil 
War, in which the author took part as a nurse in one of the hospi- 
tals, and show some of the many minor side scenes that help to 
make up that great conflict. 

Four volumes. i6mo. Cloth. $1.50 per volume. 
Sold everywhere. Mailed, post-paid, on receipt of price by the publisher s t 
















J1J %J 

-" 13 

rt 13 



o 'e 

'm "g 

t/) CO 

(U *4-l 

J3 O 






EOYS. Price, $1.50. 




sequel to " Little Men." With a new portrait of " Aunt 
Jo." Price, $1,50. 

EGBERTS BROTHERS, Publishers, Boston. 




This, the most famous Oi 
all the famous books by Miss 
ALCOTT, is now presented in 
an illustrated edition, with 

Nearly Two Hundred Character- 
istic Designs, 

drawn and engraved expressly 
for this work. It is safe to 
say that there are not many 
homes which have not been 
made happier through the 
healthy influence of this cele- 
brated book, which can now 
be had in a fit dress for the 
centre table of the domestic 

One handsome small quarto 
vohime, bound in cloth, with em- 
blematic cover designs. Prict 


Publishers^ Boston* 

f .' 


H *